It’s likely that any student taking a class at Carroll Community College (CCC) has heard about academic dishonesty and plagiarism at some point. Professors have given students verbal warnings, required them to use online plagiarism checkers or used other methods to try to prevent cheating. On every course syllabus the plagarism and cheating policies are stated, but students often tend to just skim and miss that information. So what actually happens when a student is accused of plagiarism? Are they kicked out of school? Barred from applying from jobs? At CCC, these students are given a second chance.
Integrity and Judicial Affairs Advocate Joel Hoskowitz and Dean of Student Affairs Michael Kiphart agree that the most common cases of academic dishonesty are from plagiarism, specifically improperly cited sources. This frequently occurs in the English department, but online checkers such as TurnItIn.com can easily catch the problem. Many times a student’s first plagiarism offense is due to an improperly cited source, and after working with the teacher to understand their error a student does not repeat the mistake.
“The policy has been pretty consistent. I’m happy our numbers of second and third offenses are low,” said Kiphart. In Carroll’s history, there have been a total of 289 incidents of academic dishonesty. However since 2004, only two students have reached their third offense.
According to Hoskowitz, the current system in place to catch dishonest students allows for two offenses before expulsion or suspension is even considered. On a student’s first instance of plagiarism or other form of academic dishonesty, he or she may receive a zero on the assignment. By the second offense, a student will likely receive a failing grade for the course in question. If a student has a third strike, he or she could be recommended for expulsion by the Integrity Council, a group responsible for determining violations of Carroll’s integrity policy. In addition, students who are accused of academic dishonesty will have several appeal options and can have a hearing with the Dean of Students. The three-strike system is in place in order to encourage students to learn from their mistakes and allow them a chance to redeem themselves.
“[The system is] generous in that respect,” said Hoskowitz.
Another aspect of Carroll’s academic integrity policy is that instances of academic dishonesty or plagiarism will not appear on a student’s permanent record for potential transfer schools or employers to view. However, if one of these places notices a failing grade on a transcript and questions it, a student “has to have a conversation with their conscience,” said Hoskowitz. It is against Carroll’s policy to release information of a student’s integrity violations without their consent, but in most cases it is in the student’s best interest to consent so that it will not appear that they are withholding information from background checkers.
At Carroll, the few non-accidental incidents that occur each year tend to happen around exam time in a desperate attempt to improve grades at the last minute. Dubbed “panic plagiarism” by Kiphart, this type of dishonesty is usually poorly executed and students are easily caught. A notable offense of cheating occurred in the testing center when a student wrote out answers on their hand and was caught by a staff member. There have also been instances, mainly in the testing center, when students have attempted to use notecards to cheat and have been caught by the security cameras. The surveillance videos make it easy to catch cheaters and provide proof if students appeal the claim.
“We show the student a DVD of their ‘greatest hits’,” Kiphart laughed.
Kiphart and Hoskowitz hope that the numbers of academically dishonest students at Carroll will stay low and that offenders will learn from their mistakes and move on. Their emphasis is not on harshly punishing the students, but on teaching them to be honest and responsible. Professors are encouraged to discuss academic dishonesty with their students, and the syllabi for each class exist to clarify specifics. “Academic integrity is such a basis for higher education, and being able to rely on each individual to uphold that is key,” said Hoskowitz.