Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Academic dishonesty policy explained

With finals approaching, students need to keep in mind the consequences of academic dishonesty.

The new academic honesty policy went into effect this semester. The new policy would cement any sanction in the student’s transcript and judicial record. The sanctions range from a failing grade on the contested assignment or course, to suspension and expulsion of the student.

Previously, if a student repeated the class, the failing grade sanction would be lifted.

“It’s like wearing a big scarlet letter,” said University Ombudsperson Catharine Porter. “Any ‘F’ that a student receives for academic dishonesty cannot be repeated and will not be erased.”

Assistant Ombudsperson Mary Wardwell explained that cheating is very widespread.

“It is a serious problem on this campus and across the country,” she said. “I think we see a relatively small number of cases that are contested.”

If a student appeals the sanction, a hearing panel is convened, its members culled from the Academic Honesty Board. The Board is made up of 18 faculty members, nine graduate students and nine undergraduate students.

The entire policy is outlined in the Undergraduate Rights and Responsibilities’ Code of Student Conduct. If an instructor suspects a student of dishonesty, procedure dictates the professor call the student in to discuss the incident. The professor and the student may reach an agreement and resolve the incident informally.

“At that time, the student may clarify, maybe there was a misunderstanding. Or the student says ‘I have to confess to you, I didn’t do that paper. It wasn’t right.’ The faculty member will sometimes say ‘that’s okay; we’ll redo the paper. You’ll redo the paper and we’ll forget about it,'” Porter described.

If no agreement is reached, the professor may formally charge the student with academic dishonesty.

“If the faculty member determines that the serious enough to either fail the student for the paper or fail the student for the course the professor then writes a letter to the Academic Honesty Board,” said Porter.

The letter is supposed to be forwarded to the student by the professor.

“Ideally, that it what is supposed to happen. One of the major charges in the policy this office once we receive the charge, then send a letter to the student saying that we’ve received the charge and outline the appeal and outline the timeframe. That didn’t always happen under the old system,” Wardwell explained.

The student can then appeal the charge by sending a letter to the Ombuds office.

“We then go through the process of establishing a hearing panel from the board,” Porter said.

The five-member panel is made up of three faculty and two students, and each panel is different. The panels are assembled on a case-by-case basis.

The panel can rule to uphold the sanction or rule in favor of the student. If the ruling is in the student’s favor, no action is taken, and no record of any charge is kept. However, if the panel upholds the action a letter is sent to the Dean of Student’s Office.

“We take the sanction from the Board and enter it in the record,” said Special Assistant to the Dean Terry O’Donnell. A student’s discipline record is confidential. However, it will appear on transcripts.

Porter wants students to be aware of the ramifications of such a record.

“Very often, schools where [a student] wants to transfer will ask to see copies of a student’s records. And schools aren’t looking for students that have been charged with academic dishonesty,” he said.

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