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Author Topic: Dealing with Cheaters (on exams)  (Read 33183 times)
dr_starbucks
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« Reply #15 on: March 30, 2012, 4:44:14 PM »

My syllabus says (after a reminder quote from the academic code), "Academic dishonesty results in a course F."

Isn't this your answer, Octo? He was warned, after all ...

Through experience, I've become more uncomfortable with the strict, "zero tolerance" type of language such as this that does not leave room for individual circumstances. I've always found myself making exceptions.  So the language in my syllabus allows for a bit of breathing room while attempting to stress the seriousness of cheating, something along these lines:

Academic dishonesty WILL be reported to the Academic Affairs office and will be handled according to the procedure outlined in the catalog. The nature and severity of the incident will result in consequences ranging from a zero on the assignment to receiving a grade of F in the class.  Additional consequences such as expulsion from the program may be imposed by the division chair or dean.
« Last Edit: March 30, 2012, 4:45:04 PM by lukeurig » Logged

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octoprof
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« Reply #16 on: March 30, 2012, 5:36:58 PM »

My syllabus says (after a reminder quote from the academic code), "Academic dishonesty results in a course F."

Isn't this your answer, Octo? He was warned, after all ...

Through experience, I've become more uncomfortable with the strict, "zero tolerance" type of language such as this that does not leave room for individual circumstances. I've always found myself making exceptions.  So the language in my syllabus allows for a bit of breathing room while attempting to stress the seriousness of cheating, something along these lines:

Academic dishonesty WILL be reported to the Academic Affairs office and will be handled according to the procedure outlined in the catalog. The nature and severity of the incident will result in consequences ranging from a zero on the assignment to receiving a grade of F in the class.  Additional consequences such as expulsion from the program may be imposed by the division chair or dean.

Through experience, I have learned that very clear language is the best communicator of serious matters. I'm teaching accountants. They have to understand complex laws, pronouncements and rules (tax, audit, Sarbanes-Oxley Act, other gov't regulation) in some cases and clearly comprehend the penalties that apply for ignoring them (to them and to their clients or employers).

Would you want this guy doing your taxes or your financial audit? I thought not.

In practice, this (what you describe above) is what I do. Of course, the other four students I caught cheating (in two separate instances) earlier in the term, were not prosecuted because they did it on a very low stakes take home assignment (worth about 0.0083% of their course grade, not an exam or quiz, either) and the evidence was the papers themselves (i.e. ridiculous, impossible similarities that indicated direct copying) not an eyewitness situation. Such events probably shouldn't necessitate an F in the course (although in theory, that penalty is allowed). They were warned and given zeros.

This current incident, however, is not trivial. I have followed the procedures of the catalog to the letter.

This student will not be expelled as long as he has no prior cheating offenses. I have no way of knowing whether he does or not.

Of course, he will have the opportunity to appeal. Anything can happen if he does because our academic dishonesty committee is comprised of wimps (or so I've been told, I have never had reason to contact them).
« Last Edit: March 30, 2012, 5:39:35 PM by octoprof » Logged

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dr_starbucks
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« Reply #17 on: March 30, 2012, 6:07:55 PM »

Octo,

In the context of accounting, would it be understood that the clear language nevertheless leaves room for exceptions or consequences that vary on a case-by-case basis?  Just curious, since this type of language creates more headaches in my context (humanities).
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« Reply #18 on: March 30, 2012, 6:25:50 PM »

Octo,

In the context of accounting, would it be understood that the clear language nevertheless leaves room for exceptions or consequences that vary on a case-by-case basis?  Just curious, since this type of language creates more headaches in my context (humanities).

Students in accounting will know, or will soon learn, that the stated penalties of the law are not always enforced to their full extent (such as IRS occasionally letting people pay off taxes owed over time due to exceptional circumstances). Sometimes, penalties are less, but one cannot count on that being the case in any particular case.

Lord help me if I had to deal with humanities students. You have my sympathy. Millennial accounting majors are almost enough to make me early retire and live off beans for the rest of my life.
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geonerd
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« Reply #19 on: March 30, 2012, 6:31:59 PM »

Anything can happen if he does because our academic dishonesty committee is comprised of wimps (or so I've been told, I have never had reason to contact them).

Start recruiting committee members who got screwed by Enron or Bernie Madoff.
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octoprof
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« Reply #20 on: March 30, 2012, 6:40:43 PM »

Anything can happen if he does because our academic dishonesty committee is comprised of wimps (or so I've been told, I have never had reason to contact them).

Start recruiting committee members who got screwed by Enron or Bernie Madoff.

There's an excellent idea. I don't think Madoff reached this far, but Enron very well might have.

I didn't know a thing about this committee until today when the rep on the committee from my college informed me that no matter how ironclad my syllabus and my eye-witnesses (2!), it could be overturned because the penalty is just too harsh for the poor helpless student <he said sarcastically>. I think colleague thought that the threat of more lost time and paperwork would be enough to keep me from giving the student the F. Alas, no. I still want to do what I believe is right, even if it gets overturned later and even if it costs me time and paperwork.  I'm weird like that.

So, we'll see if Mr. Cheater appeals next week.
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glowdart
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« Reply #21 on: March 30, 2012, 6:48:53 PM »

Anything can happen if he does because our academic dishonesty committee is comprised of wimps (or so I've been told, I have never had reason to contact them).

Start recruiting committee members who got screwed by Enron or Bernie Madoff.

There's an excellent idea. I don't think Madoff reached this far, but Enron very well might have.

I didn't know a thing about this committee until today when the rep on the committee from my college informed me that no matter how ironclad my syllabus and my eye-witnesses (2!), it could be overturned because the penalty is just too harsh for the poor helpless student <he said sarcastically>. I think colleague thought that the threat of more lost time and paperwork would be enough to keep me from giving the student the F. Alas, no. I still want to do what I believe is right, even if it gets overturned later and even if it costs me time and paperwork.  I'm weird like that.

So, we'll see if Mr. Cheater appeals next week.

Being weird like that gets around like wildfire and makes your life easier in future years.  

It's an upper-level course.  Flunk him.  (And, if he is on the verge of expulsion because of prior bad acts, then the appropriate dean can compromise on that punishment if so desired; s/he doesn't have to undermine the faculty in the process of protecting tuition dollars.)
« Last Edit: March 30, 2012, 6:50:40 PM by glowdart » Logged
octoprof
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« Reply #22 on: March 30, 2012, 6:56:21 PM »

Anything can happen if he does because our academic dishonesty committee is comprised of wimps (or so I've been told, I have never had reason to contact them).

Start recruiting committee members who got screwed by Enron or Bernie Madoff.

There's an excellent idea. I don't think Madoff reached this far, but Enron very well might have.

I didn't know a thing about this committee until today when the rep on the committee from my college informed me that no matter how ironclad my syllabus and my eye-witnesses (2!), it could be overturned because the penalty is just too harsh for the poor helpless student <he said sarcastically>. I think colleague thought that the threat of more lost time and paperwork would be enough to keep me from giving the student the F. Alas, no. I still want to do what I believe is right, even if it gets overturned later and even if it costs me time and paperwork.  I'm weird like that.

So, we'll see if Mr. Cheater appeals next week.

Being weird like that gets around like wildfire and makes your life easier in future years.  

It's an upper-level course.  Flunk him.  (And, if he is on the verge of expulsion because of prior bad acts, then the appropriate dean can compromise on that punishment if so desired; s/he doesn't have to undermine the faculty in the process of protecting tuition dollars.)

If paperwork and wasted time really slowed me down, I'd never have made it to full professor.

This is my first time dealing with a blatant and serious case of cheating in a majors course (ever) and certainly my first time dealing with it at this university. If nothing else, it'll be a learning experience.  Since I'm somewhat generally known on campus (for other reasons) getting a rep as a hard ass is probably a good thing.
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offthemarket
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« Reply #23 on: March 30, 2012, 7:06:36 PM »

I'm a bit late to this, but it's obvious:

F in the course. Write a short memo to the student explaining it, and copy the letter to the dean/vp/admin office that keeps tabs of academic integrity violations.  This should take less time out of your schedule than the exam grading required for this student for the rest of the semester.

If the student wants to talk to you after receiving the letter, make sure it's a scheduled appointment and that you have another colleague present for the conversation.
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octoprof
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« Reply #24 on: March 30, 2012, 7:08:01 PM »

I'm a bit late to this, but it's obvious:

F in the course. Write a short memo to the student explaining it, and copy the letter to the dean/vp/admin office that keeps tabs of academic integrity violations.  This should take less time out of your schedule than the exam grading required for this student for the rest of the semester.

If the student wants to talk to you after receiving the letter, make sure it's a scheduled appointment and that you have another colleague present for the conversation.

Apparently, I'm not allowed to go via the student first (which makes better sense to me). I have to go via the dept head and dean, first. Weird, but that's what I was told.
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polly_mer
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« Reply #25 on: March 31, 2012, 9:18:04 PM »

My syllabus says (after a reminder quote from the academic code), "Academic dishonesty results in a course F."

Isn't this your answer, Octo? He was warned, after all ...

Through experience, I've become more uncomfortable with the strict, "zero tolerance" type of language such as this that does not leave room for individual circumstances. I've always found myself making exceptions.  So the language in my syllabus allows for a bit of breathing room while attempting to stress the seriousness of cheating, something along these lines:

Academic dishonesty WILL be reported to the Academic Affairs office and will be handled according to the procedure outlined in the catalog. The nature and severity of the incident will result in consequences ranging from a zero on the assignment to receiving a grade of F in the class.  Additional consequences such as expulsion from the program may be imposed by the division chair or dean.

Apparently, I'm the softie here.  My policy reads: Academic dishonesty will result in a minimum of a zero for the assignment.  Further penalties may include report to the dean of students, failure of the class, suspension, and expulsion.  Consult <the local student handbook> for a definition of academic dishonesty and the complete list of possible penalties that the dean and/or academic honor board may administer.

This policy gives me enough wiggle room that I do record a lot of zeros, but I only send things up the line for students who either did something major (I would send this type of cheating up the line) or who would probably benefit from a talk with the dean (a big scary guy who loves to give the scared straight talk).
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octoprof
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« Reply #26 on: March 31, 2012, 9:21:31 PM »

My syllabus says (after a reminder quote from the academic code), "Academic dishonesty results in a course F."

Isn't this your answer, Octo? He was warned, after all ...

Through experience, I've become more uncomfortable with the strict, "zero tolerance" type of language such as this that does not leave room for individual circumstances. I've always found myself making exceptions.  So the language in my syllabus allows for a bit of breathing room while attempting to stress the seriousness of cheating, something along these lines:

Academic dishonesty WILL be reported to the Academic Affairs office and will be handled according to the procedure outlined in the catalog. The nature and severity of the incident will result in consequences ranging from a zero on the assignment to receiving a grade of F in the class.  Additional consequences such as expulsion from the program may be imposed by the division chair or dean.

Apparently, I'm the softie here.  My policy reads: Academic dishonesty will result in a minimum of a zero for the assignment.  Further penalties may include report to the dean of students, failure of the class, suspension, and expulsion.  Consult <the local student handbook> for a definition of academic dishonesty and the complete list of possible penalties that the dean and/or academic honor board may administer.

This policy gives me enough wiggle room that I do record a lot of zeros, but I only send things up the line for students who either did something major (I would send this type of cheating up the line) or who would probably benefit from a talk with the dean (a big scary guy who loves to give the scared straight talk).

This one has gone up the line from me to the dept head and is now (with my statement, the statement of the two testing center witnesses and the dept head's letter) on the desk of the dean. I have no idea what will happen next.

Mr. Cheater emailed today asking why his exam score hasn't been posted when he knows other folks have theirs. My dept head had advised me not to respond until Monday, then to suggest he come by my office (by which time we should have an answer from the dean).

Surely he knows? Right? The testing center worker took the cheat sheet from him and they  had a short conversation about it. Surely he doesn't think it'll just go away...?
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cc_alan
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« Reply #27 on: March 31, 2012, 10:10:48 PM »

Surely he knows? Right? The testing center worker took the cheat sheet from him and they  had a short conversation about it. Surely he doesn't think it'll just go away...?

I bet he knows and something like the following is going through his head right now-

"oh$hitoh$hitoh$hitoh$hitoh$hitoh$hitoh$hitoh$hitoh$hitoh$hitoh$hitoh$hitoh$hitoh$hitoh$hit"

"pleasenopleasenopleasenopleasenopleasenopleasenopleasenopleasenopleasenopleasenopleaseno"

He's just irrationally hoping that this will disappear.

Alan
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octoprof
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« Reply #28 on: March 31, 2012, 10:17:09 PM »

Surely he knows? Right? The testing center worker took the cheat sheet from him and they  had a short conversation about it. Surely he doesn't think it'll just go away...?

I bet he knows and something like the following is going through his head right now-

"oh$hitoh$hitoh$hitoh$hitoh$hitoh$hitoh$hitoh$hitoh$hitoh$hitoh$hitoh$hitoh$hitoh$hitoh$hit"

"pleasenopleasenopleasenopleasenopleasenopleasenopleasenopleasenopleasenopleasenopleaseno"

He's just irrationally hoping that this will disappear.

Alan

Wouldn't you think he'd come clean before the stuff hits the fan and beg for mercy? Of course, he denied to the testing center worker he had anything at first, then said,"It's nothing." Perhaps that was wishful thinking on his part as well.

I don't know. I just don't understand students and their magical thinking.

If the dean doesn't agree with my policy and the dept head's recommendation, at the very least he'll get a zero on the exam (15% of the course grade). In either case, because an academic integrity violation has been found, he is not allowed to drop (we have very late drop dates).
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infopri
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« Reply #29 on: March 31, 2012, 10:45:49 PM »

Surely he knows? Right? The testing center worker took the cheat sheet from him and they  had a short conversation about it. Surely he doesn't think it'll just go away...?

I bet he knows and something like the following is going through his head right now-

"oh$hitoh$hitoh$hitoh$hitoh$hitoh$hitoh$hitoh$hitoh$hitoh$hitoh$hitoh$hitoh$hitoh$hitoh$hit"

"pleasenopleasenopleasenopleasenopleasenopleasenopleasenopleasenopleasenopleasenopleaseno"

He's just irrationally hoping that this will disappear.

Alan

Wouldn't you think he'd come clean before the stuff hits the fan and beg for mercy? Of course, he denied to the testing center worker he had anything at first, then said,"It's nothing." Perhaps that was wishful thinking on his part as well.

I don't know. I just don't understand students and their magical thinking.

It is magical thinking, though.  He knows the paper was taken from him, but he doesn't know yet what the consequences are.  (I guarantee you he didn't bother to look it up in the handbook.)  He was hoping that your response would give him an indication of whether he's in deep doo-doo or not.  Don't be surprised when he asks you for a make-up exam. 

I'm serious.

I had an incredibly blatant case of repeated cheating from a master's student six weeks from graduating.  As soon as I discovered what he did, I let him know that he had an F in the course and had been reported up the academic-integrity chain.  You wouldn't believe the magical thinking I encountered from him.

I'm generally a softie, but when it's this egregious, I throw the book, hard.  Stick to your guns, as best you can.  If your decision gets reversed, that's fine, but you'll have a clean conscience for making the decision you believe in.  If you think he should fail and the Powers That Be insist that he pass, tell them they are welcome to record the passing grade (you can provide his other scores to them).  I took this tactic when I was told that my F might be reversed (I said they could overrule me and record a passing grade, but I would not record a passing grade), and my F stood.  The student also got suspended for a year, which essentially meant expulsion because of the student's personal circumstances. 
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