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Students might perceive a lack of consequences for cheating and plagiarizing.
Many professors deal with cheating privately. This protects a student’s privacy, but other students might perceive that cheating incidents go unpunished. This creates an atmosphere where cheating is no big deal, and indeed the research reports that cheating is more culturally acceptable today and that students consider it a “victimless crime.” Many instructors do not report cheating incidents to the Dean of Student Affairs, so it never goes into the student’s file. This creates an environment where the consequences for cheating are low-cost and relegated only to the context of the particular course. Students might infer that they are “allowed” one cheating occurrence per course.
Some professors deal with cheating very publicly. For instance, they might start a course by describing previous incidents of cheating and how they dealt with them. When incidents arise in the current course, they describe the incident and their disappointment and talk about why it is a big deal. They ask the students responsible to approach them privately and give their side of the story, which will help the instructor decide the appropriate consequences. This way, the whole class understands the gravity of the situation and that there are consequences. In addition, professors who use this technique report that often other students will come forward and admit to their own cheating, so this strategy is helpful in detecting cheating as well.
After talking to the student and deciding on an appropriate penalty, follow up with a letter or email to the student documenting the process and copy the Department Head and the Dean of Student Affairs. The incident will be annotated in the student’s file and if it’s the first incident there are no other consequences unless the student appeals. If it’s not the first incident, there will be consequences at the university level, including probation or even suspension. The process is described in detail in the university’s policies for undergraduate and graduate students.
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