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"Responding to Academic Dishonesty: A Guide for Faculty"

Written by Stephen J. Akers, Ph.D.,
Executive Associate Dean of Students
2002 and revised 2009

Purdue prohibits "dishonesty in connection with any University activity. Cheating, plagiarism, or knowingly furnishing false information to the University are examples of dishonesty" (University Regulations, Part 5, Section III, B, 2, a). Furthermore, the University Senate has stipulated that "the commitment of acts of cheating, lying, and deceit in any of their diverse forms (such as the use of ghost-written papers, the use of substitutes for taking examinations, the use of illegal cribs, plagiarism, and copying during examinations) is dishonest and must not be tolerated. Moreover, knowingly to aid and abet, directly or indirectly, other parties in committing dishonest acts is in itself dishonest" (University Senate Document 72-18, December 15, 1972).

Professor Donald L. McCabe, author of definitive studies on academic integrity, concluded from extensive surveying of students that "...there is a strong relationship between academic dishonesty and how likely students believe faculty are to pursue incidents of cheating..."

If you suspect academic dishonesty, follow the guidelines outlined below. Courts are reluctant to interfere in academic matters unless universities act arbitrarily or capriciously. Therefore, you are urged to follow established procedures.

Before any formal action is taken, an accusation of academic dishonesty requires a fact-finding discussion between you and the accused student. The meeting should be prompt, private and informal. Although there is no prescribed procedure for your discussion with the student, at some point the student should be given an opportunity to respond. Depending upon the situation and your level of comfort, you may wish to have another official departmental representative present to later corroborate any exchange of information. If you conclude that the student is innocent, this meeting should end the matter. Teaching assistants are encouraged to discuss the situation with the instructor in charge of the course before attempting to deal with the issue.

The appropriate standard of proof is based upon a preponderance of the evidence. In other words, does the evidence cause one to believe that it is more likely than not that the student committed academic dishonesty? If you conclude that the student is guilty, you may resolve the matter with the student through punitive grading. Examples of punitive grading are:

  • giving a lower or failing grade on the assignment,
  • having the student repeat the assignment and perhaps some additional assignment, or
  • assessing a lower or failing grade for the course (even if a failing grade will be assigned, the student may continue to attend class).

You are encouraged to consult with staff in the Office of the Dean of Students to determine if additional measures or investigation are appropriate. Even if additional measures are not desired, a note may be made for future reference in the case of a repeated offense. Also, the office staff will know if the student has a record of academic dishonesty. This record may influence the way the current situation is handled.

If alleged dishonesty occurs near the end of the course or otherwise cannot be resolved prior to the grade submission deadline and/or the case is most appropriately adjudicated by the Office of the Dean of Students, you may assign a grade of incomplete to hold the final grade in abeyance until the adjudication process has been concluded. Once concluded, a grade change must be submitted.

The grade appeals system allows a student to challenge the reduction of a grade for alleged academic dishonesty (see University Regulations, Part 5, Section III, E, 2, b). Therefore, your decision should be based on compelling evidence. Your academic freedom to assign grades is well recognized. Applying elementary due process in cases of alleged academic dishonesty will reinforce your assignment of grades. Due process also will help discourage claims of arbitrariness. Simply stated, due process is basic to fairness.

You should refer cases of academic dishonesty to the Office of the Dean of Students for further action if they:

  • are of an unusually serious nature or magnitude,
  • call for a stronger penalty than punitive grading, or
  • require further investigation.

The Office of the Dean of Students follows established procedures. These procedures are described in Part 5, Section III of University Regulations that may be obtained in the Office of the Dean of Students. The accused student will get a fair and impartial hearing and an opportunity either to admit to or refute the accusations. These procedures will complement your judicious and proper handling of the case. When cases are referred, final grade assignments should be delayed until the matter is resolved. At the conclusion of the Office of the Dean of Students process, you will be informed of the outcome.

"Purdue University values intellectual integrity and the highest standards of academic conduct. To be prepared to meet societal needs as leaders and role models, students must be educated in an ethical learning environment that promotes a high standard of honor in scholastic work. Academic dishonesty undermines institutional integrity and threatens the academic fabric of Purdue University. Dishonesty is not an acceptable avenue to success. It diminishes the quality of a Purdue education which is valued because of Purdue's high academic standards" (S. Akers, Academic Integrity, A Guide for Students, 1995, revised 1999).

(University Regulations, Part 5, Section II, 2002-2003)

"The purpose of the Purdue University academic community is to search for truth and to endeavor to communicate with each other. Self-discipline and a sense of social obligation within each individual are necessary for the fulfillment of these goals. It is the responsibility of all Purdue students to live by this code, not out of fear of the consequences of its violation, but out of personal self-respect. As human beings we are obliged to conduct ourselves with high integrity. As members of the civil community we have to conduct ourselves as responsible citizens in accordance with the rules and regulations governing all residents of the state of Indiana and of the local community. As members of the Purdue University community, we have the responsibility to observe all University regulations.

To foster a climate of trust and high standards of academic achievement, Purdue University is committed to cultivating academic integrity and expects students to exhibit the highest standards of honor in their scholastic endeavors. Academic integrity is essential to the success of Purdue University's mission. As members of the academic community, our foremost interest is toward achieving noble educational goals and our foremost responsibility is to ensure that academic honesty prevails."

For information, call the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities at 494-1250 or stop by Schleman Hall, Room B50.