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Academic dishonesty incidents increase

By Emily Crane
On November 30, 2012

Brenda Quaye, Miami University's new Coordinator for Academic Integrity has her work cut out for her: the 2011-12 academic year showed a 35 percent increase in reported incidents of academic dishonesty, according to the most recent incident report issued by the Academic Integrity Initiative in the Center for Enhancement of Learning and Teaching.

The report indicated that the majority of incidents of dishonesty occurred in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Farmer School of Business. BUS 101 and CHM 144 were the courses with the highest numbers of reported incidents, with 32 and 23 respectively.

The most commonly reported incidents have to do with unauthorized collaboration or plagiarism, according to Quaye, where students do more work together on assignments or assessments than they're allowed, particularly in lab write-ups.

"Students shouldn't give their work or any part of their work to another student without permission," Quaye said.

Doing so could open the door for what is called facilitated plagiarism, and while it may be unintentional, it is still punishable.

"Unintentional academic dishonesty is still dishonesty," Quaye said.

However, the spike in reported incidents is not necessarily due to an increase in actual acts of dishonesty as much as it is due to increased detection and reporting, Quaye said. As more and more professors use plagiarism detection software, such as Turnitin, it has become much easier to instantly detect cheating or plagiarism, according to Quaye.

In addition, the university recently outlined in the Student Handbook some new procedures by which an instructor may collaborate with their program director or department chair to report an incident of suspected dishonesty, Quaye said. Up until three years ago, when these procedures were put in place, faculty members were left to handle matters of dishonesty on their own.

"With the new procedure, we've implemented a support system for faculty members, [which has] provided them a mechanism for addressing issues of academic dishonesty," Quaye said.

Richard Campbell has served as the director of the journalism program for nine years and the interim chair of the communications department for three. He said he has seen a slight rise in reported incidents since the new procedures have been put in place.

"I might get between three and four cases a semester," Campbell said. "I think there are more cases now because [instructors] are more conscious of the new process."

While Quaye is not alarmed by the amount of academic dishonesty at Miami, she is actively working to combat it, primarily by educating students and faculty on policies.

"Students don't fully understand what's allowed and not allowed," Quaye said. "Speeding is a good analogy; people will do it until they get caught or unless they know someone will catch them."

Quaye has been collaborating with the university libraries and the Howe Writing Center to create online, interactive resources to help students understand the policies. She has also been working with the faculty to provide them with more resources on academic dishonesty for their students, and to inform them on the reporting procedures so as to ensure increased and accurate reporting.

In addition, Quaye is taking steps to ensure that international students are made aware of the academic dishonesty policies, as this last year, the number of incidents reported among international students more than tripled.

"A large part of that is due to how academic integrity and honesty are thought of in other cultures," Quaye said.

Shuang Ji, a junior accounting major from China, said plagiarism in particular was not seen to be as serious back home.

"In high school, we didn't stress the importance of creating your own work," Ji said.

This coming year, however, Quaye will be working to ensure that international students are given a good understanding of plagiarism during their orientation and in their introductory English courses during their first year.

"We want to ensure that our students are acting with integrity, that they're learning," Quaye said. "An emphasis on ethics and integrity both in and out of the classroom is something that adds value to our degree and our institution's name."

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