Fewer students reported for cheating, plagiarism violations

The number of cheating and plagiarism violations reported at GW dropped 20 percent last year, the first decrease in three years.

Faculty reported a total of 125 academic violations, down from an all-time high last year, which Director of Student Academic Integrity Tim Terpstra said could be due to a heightened awareness of the academic code of integrity.

The decrease comes at a time when some professors are calling cheating an epidemic at GW, changing their test formats to limit interaction between students during assessments.

About half of those cases involved some form of plagiarism, with the rest described as copying or falsifying information. Terpstra said plagiarism cases have made up less of the share of violations, which he said could be because of the GW Writing Center’s increased effort to educate students about properly citing sources.

GW spokesman David Andrews declined to provide a breakdown of how many graduate students, online students and international students were reported for cheating or plagiarism violations – groups that have had higher rates of academic integrity violations in recent years.

Chemistry professor Michael Wagner said colleges are fighting an “uphill battle” in dealing with the cheating culture. He said while more secure testing practices and increased access to anti-plagiarism technologies, like SafeAssign, seeming to be paying off, it’s a “tremendous” effort that could otherwise be spent improving classroom practices.

“Every place there will be people that try to cheat. I think it’s human nature,” Wagner said. “But I think it’s our job as professors to make sure that cheating is not possible or very close to impossible.”

Wagner said many professors in his department increased their measures to prevent opportunities for cheating. He, like other professors, creates multiple versions of exams, checks students’ IDs before they enter the classroom and photocopies exams before passing them back to students.

But Wagner said he thinks faculty have a responsibility to prevent cheating from occurring.

“It’s as much our responsibility as much as the students to make sure we create an environment where the students don’t cheat,” he said.

Wagner is a member of the Academic Integrity Council, and he said lately, he has been called to fewer hearings than in the past. Faculty are not required to report cases of academic violations to Terpstra’s office, though, and can choose to handle matters on their own.

LaKeisha McClary, an assistant professor of chemistry, said some situations call for the professor to handle matters on their own, instead of reporting students to the University.

She said in situations like when students collaborate on homework assignments, but fail to make ideas their own, it may be better for professors to work with group of students on their own.

“We’ll talk about how they can make the same idea their own and paraphrase, so that it looks different but that they’re still able to represent that idea,” she said.

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