What Do I Do? What Do I Say?
Confronting/speaking with/sanctioning students who have violated the K-State Honor Pledge
These are tips you can use and steps you can take in addressing episodes of academic dishonesty. Not all faculty feel comfortable in confronting students in these situations. If you need more information or assistance, please feel free to contact Honor & Integrity System staff at: firstname.lastname@example.org (email), 532-2595 (office).
1. Gather all information concerning an episode. This information can include, but is not limited to:
- the syllabus, especially the section dealing with academic integrity;
- the assignment guidelines specific to the work in question;
- any verbal information given the class about the assignment or examination;
- the original paperwork involved (research paper, journal entry, examination, lab report, attendance sheet, etc.); and
- any other information needed to make a reasonable decision about what occurred.
2. If the cheating is happening during a class quietly leave a small note or ask the student to see you following the class session. Do not allow a confrontation in front of others. Simply be firm yet quiet. When contacting a student by phone, do not operate through third parties. If the student does not answer the phone personally, leave only your name and a number to call back. Do not talk about the nature of the call. If using email, do not allude to the reason for the appointment. This allows too much temptation for either party to "discuss" issues that should be discussed face-to-face. Emails do not show frowns, eye-to-eye contact, expressions that might suggest contrite feelings, etc. Serious discussion needs to be conducted in person.
3. Set up an appointment with the student during a time that is conducive to privacy, quiet, and time enough removed from intense emotion such as shock, anger, hurt. The key word is "intense." Students need to hear you articulate your feelings about what has transpired during this event. Students need to hear phrases such as, "I am disappointed with your behavior." "I am very angry about your deceit." "I was shocked that you would take advantage of me." Emotions are a part of our world and they do color our dealings with others. The key is to keep a balance so that anger does not escalate into rage, hurt into sarcastic bombardment, and legitimate power into unbridled retribution.
4. Sometimes, it is recommended having the meeting with another person present, such as a department head or a dean. Documenting that the meeting took place is very important. This documentation can be something as simple as a few statements signed by both instructor and student. The statements might go something like this:
We met on ____________ (day and date) at _________ (time of appointment), in ______ (building and room). We discussed an alleged violation of the Honor Pledge, as well as possible sanctions that might be assigned in this case. We, the instructor and student, are aware that two things will occur after this meeting. 1) A report will be filed with the KSU Honor & Integrity System, and 2) the student will have an opportunity to contest the allegation to the Honor & Integrity System Director. Students will not have the opportunity to contest sanctions.
A student signature is not an admittance of the allegation, but testament that a meeting occurred.
Signed and dated by instructor and student.
5. If more than one student is involved in an episode of cheating, interview each student individually, but with little time between each interview. Sometimes stories conflict and this gives the instructor a chance to ask questions that might shed light on what occurred between the two or more students.
6. Use the Honor Pledge Violation Report Form. This form documents the process with the Honor & Integrity System. The form, used by reporters (faculty and students) of Honor Pledge violations, is filed and information is entered into a centralized database. The form indicates the WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, HOW, and WHY of the event. The WHO aspect of the report lists pertinent facts about the student being accused of a violation. This can be as little as a name and student ID, or as much as place of residence, phone numbers, email address—all that identifies the student. The form also contains information about the reporter—faculty member or another student. The WHERE information usually identifies class information—course number, section, days/times of meeting, etc. The WHAT, WHEN, HOW information constitutes an accounting of the alleged violation itself. In this section the reporter gives his or her perception of what occurred, using as much behavioral terminology as possible, i.e. the student leaned over her desk to look at notes hidden in her textbook. Be careful about using phrases such as, "She was being sneaky." Define "sneaky" in terms of behavior.
7. Start the student interview by giving some information on what YOU perceive has happened. At this point, it is best to use facts, not assumptions. Example:
"I saw your head bent over the desk during the test. I then had my proctor witness your behavior. When I walked down the aisle and looked under your desk, I saw your notebook opened to Chapter 11 notes. Tell me about your open notebook."
"I was grading the take home midterm and noticed that two papers were very similar. Upon further investigation, these are the specific areas that triggered my suspicion. Can you clarify for me how this might have occurred?"
At this point, ask for the student's perception of what he or she believes has transpired. Ask open-ended questions instead of closed questions that require a "yes" or "no" answer. Some questions you might use include: "How did you do this assignment?" "Why do you think these two papers look so much alike?" and "What happened...?." are better than "Did you...?" Another important point when speaking with students is the use of silence. Instructors who feel comfortable in just listening and being quiet, even after the student has finished talking are sometimes rewarded with more explanation on the part of the student. A nod or "Go on, I'm listening."can do much to encourage a student, especially a student dealing with the anxiety of the moment. Putting a student at ease during a stressful time sometimes helps that student feel more comfortable with telling the truth about what occurred. Many times, when an instructor respects the dignity of a student, if not the student's unethical behavior, the student feels obliged to reciprocate by coming out with the truth. This is especially true if the situation involves a large, impersonal class. If a student feels the instructor is listening with compassion as well as genuine concern about the unethical behavior, the student may be more receptive. The goal is to help the student understand not only THAT the behavior is unacceptable (looking at another's test), but WHY that behavior is unacceptible (it gives unfair advantage).
8. Roger Harris (http://www.virtualsalt.com/antiplag.htm) has an excellent conversation about asking students questions about papers that may have been plagiarized, all the while giving students a chance to explain how they constructed their papers. He states, "...if you ask the right questions in the right way, you will often be successful. Example questions that may help reveal the truth:
- "I was quite surprised by your paper, so I did some investigation into it. Before I tell you what I found out, is there anything you want to tell me about it?" With the appropriately serious demeanor and tone, a well phrased question like this will often result in a confession. If the student is innocent or just hardened and replies, "No," you can always reveal some innocuous fact and go on.
- "I'm curious to know why your writing style is so good in some parts of the paper and so poor in others. And why have you not shown such great writing on the in-class essays?"
- "This long passage doesn't sound like your normal style. Is this a quotation where you accidentally forgot the quotation marks?"
9. If the student admits the dishonest behavior, direct the conversation to the options you have as an instructor. Give a full accounting of all the options you have, along with the consequences of your decision. Example:
"As an instructor, I have a variety of options to take in a case such as this. I can give you a warning and it will be noted in my record book. I can give you a zero on the assignment/exam and your overall grade will suffer. I can also have you take the Development and Integrity course where you can learn more about making appropriate decisions when in a dilemma (time management/loyalty to friends). I can even recommend suspension or expulsion (depending on severity of violation) where you will forfeit all work done this semester at this university. In some instances you may even lose a scholarship or financial aid, depending on your total grade point average."
- When you are finished going over the options, tell the student which option you are choosing and WHY. Remind the student that in order to afford him or her due process, you are sending an Honor Pledge Violation Report to the Honor & Integrity System Director, who will afford him or her the opportunity to contest the allegation. Sending the report to the Honor & Integrity System implies that you are 1) serious about promoting integrity at KSU, 2) following university procedure, and 3) interested in helping the student learn from the episode.
10. If the student denies the behavior and there is enough information that makes it highly plausible that the violation occurred, tell the student in this way.
"I'm sorry you don't see things as I do. This is not a LEGAL issue where EVIDENCE beyond a doubt is needed to "prove" your behavior. This is an EDUCATIONAL issue where the amount of INFORMATION gathered strongly suggests inappropriate scholarly conduct. I am convinced, with this information before me, that you not only violated the Honor Pledge, you are now being dishonest with me about it." Outline the sanctions and reporting procedure as in step #6 above.
11. Let's look at what you might consider before giving a sanction. An Honor Council hearing panel will follow these guidelines. Faculty members who choose to use OPTION #1 (addressing an episode autonomously) do well in using some of these guidelines. It makes the sanctioning process more fair and consistent across campus.
Sanctions are determined based on the truthfulness of the student in speaking with you, the existence of premeditation (intent), and the flagrancy with which the student has violated the Honor Pledge. These factors may be ranked on a scale from low to high. Other factors affecting sanctions might include:
- Grade level/classification
- Misinterpreting syllabus or assignment/project/examination guidelines and not asking for clarification
- Tampering with any information you show the student (exam erasures, etc.)
- Acceptance of responsibility, remorse
- Personal hardship
- Lack of personal gain
- Intent to help another
- Lack of dishonest intent
Although there may not be knowledge of violating the Honor Pledge or intent, a violation has still occurred.
Sanctions may include, but are not limited to any of the following:
- Redoing the assignment/exam/project for reduced credit
- Receiving no credit for assignment/exam/project
- Enrolling in and successfully completing the Development and Integrity course (educational sanction) with any of the above sanctions
- Receiving an XF in the course
- Receiving an XF in the course with recommendation of suspension from the University
- Receiving an XF in the course with recommendation of expulsion from the University
- Need more clarification? Please call the Honor & Integrity System office: 532-2595/2594
12. In the final moments of the conversation, it is very important to also tell the student WHY this behavior is unacceptable--the student development perspective. Example:
"What I'm about to tell you now demonstrates that I care about your development as a person, especially in the area of integrity. College students are still learning what it means to make decisions in times of dilemmas. I have faith that you are still learning that process and that gives me hope for your growth. When you looked at another person's answers during the test, you were giving yourself unfair advantage over others in the class. By your behavior you also hurt me, your instructor, because I trusted you to do your own work. In the bigger picture, you demeaned the integrity of a KSU degree, a statement to future employers that you learned the material in this class. Lastly, you hurt yourself in the process because I will find it difficult to trust in you as a researcher/student. It will take time and different behavior on your part for me to trust you again. This is doable; I want you to learn from this episode what it means to work in an academic setting, our university community, where trust is so important. We trust that truth is being told. It underlies all our work. "
This part of the conversation helps students become more congruous with what they SAY they want to be (declare to be honest), what they believe they ARE (perception of honesty), and what they DO (actual behavior-honest or dishonest).
Reporting a student to the Honor & Integrity System
- Helps track repeat Honor Pledge violators,
- Provides students the option to contest allegations,
- Protects faculty from legal redress by following established academic procedures, and
- Promotes academic integrity, as well as, helps student ethical development. The Honor & Integrity System is based on the belief that reporting Honor Pledge violations helps students grow in the ability to reason through future ethical dilemmas. Educational sanctions help students learn to take time when making decisions affecting not only the student, but also the community.