Academic Honesty

6 June 2016

Academic honesty is a basic bedrock principle throughout the educational world; its very core is the heart of learning and achieving success.  With the reputation of the institution at stake, schools are adamant about reducing academic dishonesty across the board.

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There are three basic tenets of academic honesty:  when a student claims to have done the work themselves, they actually did, that when students rely on another’s work, they cite it and when a direct quotation from another source is used, it is in quotation marks with the author’s name clearly noted.  In all cases, it is assumed that all references will be listed appropriately and all work will be original and properly documented.  Another expectation is that all references will be reported accurately and research, whether it is data or text, will not be fabricated or altered.  The consequences for violating these principles can be both minor with little effect on the future to catastrophic.

Violations can sometimes be accidental, minor oversights that the student misses or an incorrect citation.  More often, though, the acts are deliberate, ranging from failing to cite someone else’s paraphrased idea to claiming another’s work as his or her own to purchasing entire papers from an outside source.  Each level of violation increases the potential punishment a student receives.

Most instructors provide their students with a list of their expectations as well as their academic honesty policy.  They clearly delineate their expectations and the consequences for violating their rules.  Because accusations of academic dishonesty car have such far-reaching effects, charges are only issued when there is overwhelming evidence against the student and a thorough review of said evidence.  A great percentage of students do not contest the claim as the charges are usually so supported.

Some instructors prefer to handle the issue of academic honesty personally, not referring it to school administration but doling out his or her own punishment.  The majority of teachers have a zero tolerance policy for plagiarism or cheating, awarding at the minimum a zero on the assignment, though some merely require resubmitting the assignment, depending on the egregiousness of the offense and the student’s academic history.  If the has a record of academic dishonesty, he or she will be dealt with more severely than those with a clean academic background.

When the issue of cheating is passed further up the administrative chain, additional penalties can include a failing course grade and being reported to the dean or principal for further disciplinary sanctions up to and including suspension or expulsion. Even a short-term suspension can have a profound effect on a student’s life, separating them both from friends and instructors, but also forcing them to fall behind in their classes.

The social stigma associated with academic dishonesty is lessening as it becomes more and more common.  However, a student caught cheating is often humiliated and embarrassed by the charge as their fellow students and instructors usually become aware of the charge, particularly when the punishment is severe.  It leads to a loss of respect among both groups as well as a permanent history in school records of their behavior.

Another consequence of academic dishonesty is that it interferes with the educational process, inhibiting fellow students and undermining instructors.  The student committing the behavior does not learn as much as a student who has performed the work himself and even if he or she is not caught, it affects their fellow students by changing the instructor’s expectations and the level by which all students are judged.  Also, cheating makes the teacher’s position unnecessary as it mocks what they represent and the role they play in a student’s life.

Consequences for academic dishonesty can also have a major impact on life after school, whether in high school, community college or university.  The history follows you.  Many employers do a background check on their potential employees, including an academic disciplinary check.  Some colleges and almost all universities, particularly elite universities, do a disciplinary check and a negative record can affect acceptance (2004).

Whether they are caught or not, students who commit academic dishonesty in school are more likely to be dishonest in the future, personally and professionally.  In addition, graduates with the same degree do not always have the same level of knowledge if students had cheated their way through school. This affects the level of experience in businesses as well as the business’ trust in the university degree (2004).  As more and more uneducated graduates enter the work force, companies put less and less faith in the university degree.

The consequences of academic are glaringly apparent, though they often fail to discourage students from committing it.  Students are constantly creating new and inventive methods of cheating as they attempt to work their way around rather than through the system.  Many do not understand just how deeply it can affect their entire life, not just that one assignment for that one class.  It is not something to be trifled with or an issue where the line is blurred.  The requirements are clear and the guidelines easy to follow.  The student just needs to remember that the point of an education is to learn and prepare them for later life.  Academic dishonesty fails to do that.

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