Syllabi tell of cheating policy, rules
  Statement becomes added requirement on outlines

Editor's note: This is part one of a three-part series on syllabi instructions.

by Sally Claunch

Special to The Shorthorn The administration this semester is requiring professors to put an academic dishonesty statement on each syllabus in order to emphasize the university's policy against cheating. Dr. Kent Gardner, senior associate vice president for student affairs/dean of students, said that about 80 percent of students here cheat in one form or another. "We asked the teachers to put academic dishonesty statements into each syllabus as a point of emphasis," he said. All referrals concerning academic dishonesty are turned over to Dr. Gardener's office. "One office -- consistency is very important. We are trying to be consistent and assertive," he said. He said that in 1996-1997 academic year, there were 129 cases of academic dishonesty reported. He said this number reflects only the students who were caught. "We usually only catch the students who are blatant about it." Gardener said that plagiarism was one of the most pervasive forms of cheating. He said it is easy to get a term paper from the Internet. The papers could be anywhere, and the teachers don't have time to go scouring the web for plagiarism. "The only way to tell is if you have a poor to middle-of-the road student that suddenly turns in a brilliant paper," Gardner said. Dr. Allan Saxe, an associate professor of political science, agrees. He said, "It is very precarious to accuse someone of academic dishonesty." He said he didn't have time to check every assignment because some of his classes have 300 people. "I don't want to run a school like a penitentiary," he said. Gardner said the university has a specific protocol to follow for dealing with academic dishonesty. When faculty members suspect students of cheating, the teachers must file a referral with Gardner's office. The teachers may confront the students, or may ask Gardner to do it. If the students admit to cheating, and it is a first offense, the teachers fill out a form describing the infraction, and the students and teachers sign the form. Usually, the teachers will assign a punishment, such as giving a zero on the assignment, or making the students do the assignment again. Then the dean's office sends a letter to the students announcing that they are on probation, as well as a copy of the UT System Regent's Rules and Regulations and a copy of Chapter 2 of the Handbook of Operation Procedure titled "Student Conduct and Discipline." If students violate their probation by cheating again, they're suspended for at least a semester or expelled. If the students are confronted by faculty, and the students deny any wrongdoing, they will be sent to Gardner. If the students continue to deny the charge, the next step is a university hearing. Gardner said there are several professors who have law degrees and they serve as judges in these hearings. Gardner serves as prosecutor. If the students or Gardner wish to contest the verdict, they can appeal only to university President Robert Witt. Dr. Glen Terrell, associate professor of physics, has been teaching for more than 30 years. He had first-hand experience with cheating in 1997. He said two of his students were brazenly exchanging papers and talking during a final exam. Another student in the class brought it to his attention. He said, "When cheating is uncovered it is nasty. It shouldn't happen at all." Terrell referred the problem to Gardner's office, and the students denied the charge. "They stood there and lied to my face," Terrell said. He said he felt the whole procedure wasted time and that complying with the protocol did more harm than good. Terrell said that for the last 20 years, he has tried to avoid discussing the issue of cheating with his classes. He said that the mere fact that the teacher has to mention cheating does damage to the relationship he tries to cultivate with his students. "It taints the flavor of the (teacher/student) relationship." he said. When he originally issued a syllabus to a class, he left the academic dishonesty statement off the form. The department made him copies of the statement, and he issued it the next time the class met. Terrell said cheating won't decrease until students do something about it. "Students should do more to eradicate cheating from the community," he said. Dr. Bill Carroll, professor and chairman computer science and engineering department, said the engineering school has several cases of academic dishonesty every semester. He said that the problem is not unique to the university but is a major problem everywhere. "Very rarely does a student turn in another student," he said. Carroll also requires his students to read and sign an engineering school code of ethics. Bill Arena, an adjunct professor in the communications department, said he has not had problems with cheating in his classes. "I feel foolish that I have to put that (academic dishonesty statement) in writing, but you have to do it," he said. Public relations senior Sharon Patterson, said she's never noticed any cheating going on in her classes. "If I'm taking a test, I'm usually into my test and not paying attention to what other people are doing," she said.