Academic Integrity Committee Report 2007-2008

 

During the past academic year the Academic Integrity Committee, has been working on several issues, in an effort to address some problems and concerns relative to the topic of academic integrity on this campus.  Ken Weiss and I have served as Co-Chairs of this committee.

 

The committee was charged with four primary goals at the beginning of the year:

 

1.                  To look into the recent history of reported cases of plagiarism at CCSU

2.                  To write and distribute a web-based survey to find out more about faculty attitudes regarding plagiarism and the reporting of such cases

3.                  To review Academic Integrity Policy itself and consider revisions if deemed necessary

4.                  To research and implement a pilot program with TurnItIn.com, a well-known and widely used plagiarism detection tool.

 

On  November 11, 2007, Chris Dukes, University Judicial Officer, met with the committee to report recent statistics regarding how often faculty have been reporting cases of academic dishonesty.  His data, reflected in the chart below covers the years 2003-2007.

 

2003

   15 reported cases

2004

   57 reported cases

2005

   66 reported cases

2006

   52 reported cases

2007

   18 reported cases

 

 

Dukes suspects the low number of cases reported can be explained by four possibilities:

 

1.                  Departments don’t want others to see student failures

2.                  Faculty are concerned about the consequences for their students

3.                  Faculty are afraid students will retaliate

4.                  Some cases of dishonesty are not detected

 

This discussion raised concerns among the members of the committee about the policy itself—both in terms of the range and consistency of the sanctions as well as in terms of the way it is worded. 

 

 

 

 

Results from Web-based Survey

 

A total of 81 out of 400 full time faculty— approximately 20%— completed the Academic Misconduct Survey. Of those completing the survey, 46% reported they encountered at least one academic misconduct issue during the period of Spring 2007 through Fall 2007. The top five most common academic misconduct issues, starting with the most common, are as follows:

  1. Copying information from internet websites and submitting it as one's own work;
  2. Copying sentences, phrases, paragraphs, tables, figures or data directly or in slightly modified form from a book, article, or other academic source without using quotation marks or giving proper acknowledgment to the original author or source;
  3. Unauthorized collaboration in the preparation of materials to be submitted for academic evaluation—e.g., working with another student on an assignment when the instructor has not authorized working together;
  4. Disruption in classroom, lab, or research and study areas; any conduct or actions that grossly or persistently interfere with the academic process;
  5. Submission of another's material as one’s own for academic evaluation.

 

According to the survey results, a total of 19 academic misconduct reports were completed and submitted during the Spring of 2007 through Fall of 2007 time period. The two most common reasons cited for not filing an academic misconduct report included: not wishing to blemish on the student’s record and not feeling the student was aware of the infraction.

 

A total of 74% of responders indicated they include a statement explaining the policy on academic misconduct in their course syllabi. In relation to faculty’s view of the academic misconduct policy, the majority (46%) feel it is fair and just; however some faculty comments include: “As soon as the faculty member reports, the case is out of her hands; I am not comfortable leaving the fate of my students in the hands of a judicial officer”; “The policy is fine, the process is completely broken”; and “It's good, there just needs to be more reporting back to the instructor about results.” Additionally, 57% of faculty indicated there should be more opportunities for faculty to learn about the policy and its correct application. When asked if faculty would find it useful if CCSU adopted one of the available pieces of plagiarism detection software 75% responded “yes.”

 

 

Review of Academic Integrity Policy

 

The subcommittee for streamlining the academic honesty policy suggested that we start with the undergraduate policy, which seems more straightforward, and use it as the basis for the graduate policy as well – which is now ineffectively organized in terms of questions and answers.  In terms of presentation, then, the revision work here should be fairly easy. However, the subcommittee did have some concerns about content, mainly:  What is the role of faculty after they’ve reported cases to the Judicial Officer?  Can faculty have power over sanctions at that point while also respecting student privacy issues?

 

The subcommittee proposed changes to the policy that fall into two categories – points of clarification (see below) and significant, more theoretical questions. These questions involve the role of the judicial officer in partnership with faculty after a case has been reported, the place of the academic integrity policy in the student handbook which considers plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty in the same category as bodily harm and defacement of property, and the question of mandatory faculty reporting. 

 

Recommended:

Replace all versions of Academic Integrity Policy, online and print, with the version that is presented as the Undergraduate Academic Integrity Policy page on the Academic Integrity website.

 

Use for both Graduate and Undergraduate policy and published guidelines, with one line to indicate that the Graduate Dean may also be informed of any Academic Misconduct reports filed for graduate students.

 

Revisions to current “Undergraduate Academic Misconduct Policy”:

1)      Eliminate “Consequences of Academic Misconduct” section.

2)      Revisions to “When Students are Suspected of Academic Misconduct” section:

Ø  1c) “The faculty member will inform the student that if Academic Misconduct has occurred, an Academic Misconduct Report must be filed with the University Judicial Officer, who then decides if further disciplinary action is necessary.”

Ø  2c) “When a faculty member determines that a student has engaged in Academic Misconduct, the student shall be required to complete the Academic Integrity Workshop.”

Ø  4a) “Impose an academic sanction. Possible sanctions include the following:

§  A grade of ‘F’ for the course

§  A grade of ‘F’ for the material being evaluated

§  A reduced grade for the material being evaluated.

§  The assigning of additional course work.”

Ø  4b) “Prepare and forward an Academic Misconduct Report to the University Judicial Officer and to student, indicating the determination reached and sanctions imposed.”*

*The committee determined that the faculty member needs to send a copy of this report to the student in order for the student to have the opportunity to contest the finding of Academic Misconduct, per the section on “A Student’s Rights.”

At the last meeting of the committee in late April,  there was discussion among members in attendance and also Provost Lovitt, about the process being more faculty controlled, such that a given case might involve a more simplified process, which would not engage the university judicial officer, unless there were repeated offenses.  A case which was contested by the student might go to a hearing, handled perhaps by  a faculty committee.  This will be discussed more fully in Fall 2008.

TurnItIn Pilot Study

TurnItIn is known nationally to be an excellent plagiarism detection tool.  Clearly, it is more appropriate and useful in some academic areas than others, but the idea is to make the software available for faculty use.  Implementation would be voluntary, but encouraged.  

The representative from TurnItIn recommended that we do a pilot study in Spring 2008.  Provost Lovitt registered us for the pilot and the account was activated on April 1, 2008.  Through the hard work of Emily Chasse, Webcasts were scheduled, announced and done.  There were also video tutorials made available, and all of this was explained to the Senate on March 10.

It will be possible to integrate the software with Vista. Attempts were made to get this done and announced to faculty, but Emily reported problems with the communication of this to the faculty at large.  In addition, there will be a link to a free plagiarism detection system, known as SafeAssign.  While eliminating the cost issue, this is known to be more limited in scope, with a smaller data base, not inclusive of student papers.

As of April 14th, eighteen faculty members had registered for the TurnItIn pilot study.  The Academic Integrity Committee hopes that more faculty will join the study during the summer months, as it has been extended through that period, for our continued trial use and evaluation.  Should it be decided that CCSU will enter into a subscription agreement in the Fall, we have been informed that the year-long contract could be initiated anytime during the semester.

The committee will continue working on the issues outlined above, and present an update to the Senate sometime in Fall 2008.

 

Brian Kershner and Ken Weiss, Co-Chairs, Academic Integrity Committee     

May 12, 2008