In a summary of academic misconduct from the past year at UFV, there were 66 cases of cheating at UFV, 33 of plagiarism, one of aiding and abetting, and one of falsification of a record or document. Additionally, the majority of the violations occurred in the fall semester.
“It’s an interesting question, and I wish I had all the details or answers to that,” says Susan Francis, the director of academic integrity, trying to explain the pattern of violations. “Typically we will see a larger intake of students in the fall semester, so that could definitely contribute to the higher numbers.”
The summary also states that 38 per cent of violations were committed by domestic students, compared to 62 per cent committed by international students. Francis suggests that this could be a result of varying academic misconduct standards in different countries.
“Academic integrity can mean different things around the globe,” she says. “There’s different standards, different norms. Basically, students that are coming into UFV or Canada may not be fully aware of what our expectations are here.”
In order to build awareness surrounding academic misconduct, Francis, along with UFV’s department of academic integrity, is working on new informative strategies. Some of these include presenting at new student orientation and international student orientation, as well as class visits and presentations, academic integrity workshops, and possibly even an educational video.
“Basically, [we’re] just trying to get that word spread throughout the university and how best to do that often times is through technology,” she says. “Instructors could show this video in classes and create dialogue and interesting discussions with students about the importance of academic integrity.”
Francis also hopes to create an online tutorial to guide students through the policies.
“[It’s] a long-term goal that I have,” she says. “This could be something that all students are required to do, where they have to go through this online workshop and there can be testing at the end.”
While Francis and the department of academic integrity are spearheading the campaign, they are working with other departments and programs in the university as well.
“We’re collaborating with other departments, such as the academic success centre, student services, the library, international education — just working together on how to best educate students and get the message across,” she says. “We also present at new faculty orientations, letting them know about academic integrity and the process and the policy, and asking that they discuss it with students in their classes as well.”
At this point, Francis is unsure when any of these projects will be in place.
“It will take time just to research what avenues are out there, whether it’s an already built program that we bring in, or if we create something of our own here at UFV,” she says.
Punishment for academic misconducts is dependent on the violation. In most cases, getting caught for plagiarizing or cheating will result in a zero on the assignment. However, it is possible to receive a no credit for the course, resulting in a failure of that particular class. “Of course, it depends on the case and the circumstances,” Francis says.
Despite the efforts to curtail all forms of academic misconduct, it continues to surface each semester. As with any rule or law, this doesn’t put an end to the misconduct completely.
“Oftentimes, students have a full course load, they have families, they’re working — just the stress of it can cause them to go down the wrong paths,” Francis says, suggesting that the motivation behind violations isn’t necessarily a malicious one. The reasons for cheating or plagiarizing can vary: from pressure to keep a certain GPA, pressure from family or friends, or a lack of confidence.
Regardless of reparation, academic misconduct is considered to be prohibited because it negates the efforts of the institution to educate. Any number of reasons could be listed as to why it’s wrong, but at the end of the day it simply doesn’t benefit the violator other than through the gamble for a better grade — unless grades are considered a currency.