Though the Academic Integrity Office strives to inform professors and students about the academic code and its consequences, 82 violations were found during the 2008-2009 academic year.
According to data from the office, the perpetrators were half male, half female, with 74 percent being undergraduate students. The majority – 76 percent of these violations – were for plagiarism, followed by 18 percent for cheating.
Office of University Students and Academic Integrity Director Timothy Terpstra wants to prevent confusion regarding the academic code that results in these violations.
“The AI policy is enforced by the Academic Integrity Office, the Academic Integrity Council, GW professors, administrators, and students,” he said. “For the most part, the code is clear, yet it is subject to interpretation and therefore has some flexibility.”
The consequences for violations of the academic code vary greatly depending on the severity of the offense, Terpstra said.
About 83 percent of the perpetrators failed the given assignment, 16 percent failed the course and one student was expelled.
“A couple of areas of confusion on the AI policy revolve around the permanency of the record of violation and the notion of intent,” he said. “Violations are permanently recorded and are not expunged upon graduation.”
During the 2007-2008 academic year, the Academic Integrity Office found 89 violations, 76 percent of which were for plagiarism and 17 percent for cheating – almost identical to the 2008-2009 academic year.
The office encourages professors to enforce the code when they suspect a violation, and professors have different approaches and standards when it comes to integrity in their classrooms.
History professor David Silverman has a zero-tolerance policy for cheating and believes the normal penalty issued for first offenses “is far too lenient since most cheaters cheat to begin with because they’re in danger of failing. College students are adults and understand the consequences of their actions,” he said.
Professor of finance Arthur Wilson agreed students should understand and be aware of the academic expectations.
“It should not be necessary to say, ‘Don’t take credit for someone else’s work.’ Even so, I think the University is quite clear on this, and the syllabus is quite clear on this. As for second chances, I do not see a rationale for it,” Wilson said.
Although penalizing a student for code violations is often necessary, professors interviewed said it was still an unpleasant thing to do.
“Catching a student cheating is the last thing in the world any professor wants to do. It is emotionally painful at a level that is difficult to describe. To have the student-teacher relationship disrespected to that level is an amazingly painful experience that sucks time, energy and effort away from scholarship and other students,” said School of Engineering and Applied Science professor Julie Ryan.
Ryan, a strong advocate for academic integrity, said, “Cheaters steal much more than just the opportunity to actually learn something: They steal time that other students might have had with the professor; they steal the emotional energy that a professor might put into future classes; and they steal part of the value of legitimate grades earned by honest students.”