Active prevention for academic misconduct

(Graphic by Lena Yang)
(Graphic by Lena Yang)

Handling academic misconduct is about more than just setting some rules down on paper.  At least that’s what academic integrity advisors Lea Caragata and Judy Eaton believe.

The position of academic integrity advisor was only recently created in January of 2013 at Wilfrid Laurier University and Caragata and Eaton have spent the past year developing the role.

The two advisors handle individual cases of academic misconduct, as well as educate faculty on how to prevent cheating in their classes and students on how and why they should avoid cheating.

“We want to create a culture where people know about it and talk about it … we usually don’t talk about it until there’s a breach,” said Caragata, who is the advisor for the Waterloo campus.

According to Laurier’s Code of Conduct and Discipline, “Academic misconduct is an act by a student, or by students working on a team project, which may result in a false evaluation of the student(s), or which represents an attempt to unfairly gain an academic advantage, where the student either knew or ought reasonably to have known that it was misconduct.”

In some cases, academic misconduct can lead to expulsion and an infraction will remain on a student’s record permanently.

“We have a whole process in place for dealing with academic misconduct issues.  Academic integrity, though, is about more than just penalizing students for plagiarism,” said Caragata.

Caragata and Eaton have begun working with professors to help them design and write tests and assignments that are as cheat-proof as possible.

They are also preparing a survey, which they will likely make available later this semester, to collect the opinions of students on the issue.  They are interested in the factors that can lead a student to cheat.

According to Caragata and Eaton, technology has made it easier than ever for students to cheat.

“We see a range of it.  We need to be active about new ways to cheat such as essay mills,” said Eaton, who is the advisor at the Brantford campus.

An essay mill is a service that provides buyers with essays and assignments so that they can pass the work off as their own.

Eaton believes through the education of students and faculty, the university can create a culture where students don’t even think about cheating.

In the year since the position of academic integrity advisor was created, much research has been conducted looking into misconduct cases and their frequency at Laurier.  To help solve the issue, Caragata emphasized creating a dialogue with students.

“Many universities are hesitant to talk about it … it’s an issue that’s not going away or getting better, it’s probably getting worse.”

Caragata has plans to organize a student-led conference to discuss handling the issues of academic integrity next year depending on approval for funds from the Student Life Levy.

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