In a technological age in which cheating techniques are becoming more accessible and widespread, the number of UR students caught indulging in academic dishonesty is minimal and the faculty would like to see it stay that way.
?The board sees about 20 to 30 cases a year and I?d say about seven-eighths are very forthcoming and admit that they screwed up and that?s the last we hear from them,? said Nicholas Bigelow, professor of physics and astronomy and chair of the Board of Academic Honesty.
The university?s disciplinary procedure aims to provide a reasonable framework for dealing with dishonesty, Bigelow said.
?If someone makes a mistake regarding academic honesty, this is an important problem for the student involved, but it is also a community problem and we must take action to rectify it,? he said.
If a faculty member or teaching assistant suspects a student of academic dishonesty, the instructor can confront the student.
If the incident is a misunderstanding ? such as in the case of two students handing in identical lab reports because they believed this type of coordination was permitted ? the students and teacher can work out a mutual agreement.
If the student admits guilt, the instructor must file a report that describes the event to the Board of Academic Honesty.
The instructor and student must sign the report to show that both parties agreed on what took place.
?Part of the point of this is that we want to protect everyone as much as possible,? Bigelow said.
However, if the student denies cheating even in light of sufficient evidence or feels the proposed punishment is too severe, the faculty member must pass the case to the Board of Academic Honesty.
The case is presented before a committee of three board members and one student from the All-Campus Judicial Council. They ask questions, decide whether the student is guilty and recommend a suitable course of action.
Under the policy, these students can escape serious repercussions.
First-time offenders have their misdemeanor noted on file, but it does not become a part of their record. These files are discarded after five years.
?This experience is usually very constructive for the person who acted dishonestly. A few people make mistakes from adverse conditions, but we?re out to help them bite the bullet and to help them learn from their mistakes,? Bigelow said.
For repeat offenders, cheating may become a permanent stain on their records.
In these cases, the Board of Academic Honesty suggests suitable repercussions. The Dean of Students makes the final decision.
Associate Dean of Students Ken Rockensies advises students to inform themselves about the academic honesty policies early on.
?It is a matter of communicating to students what is expected of them regarding research and citations and acceptable collaboration,? he said. ?Ultimately, it is the faculty?s decision on what is allowable. If there is any doubt, check with the professor.?
Professors may be able to recognize cheating more easily than students think.
Professor of History Daniel Borus caught a student who turned in a paper from the Web last year.
?Papers bought over the Internet read differently than the usual student papers,? he said. ?Their grammar and syntax is different ? often better ? and often they make references that students have not come across in class reading or my lectures.?
Borus said he then looks for the paper through a search engine or asks the student questions to see if the he or she is knowledgeable about the topic.
Director of the Center for Academic Support Suzanne O?Brien agrees that cheating is relatively easy to detect.
?True, it?s easy to find articles on the Web, but it?s also become easier to trace these back and catch the culprits,? she said. ?Cheating is a fool?s game and leads to no positive end at all.?
Students have various opinions on why people cheat.
?Students don?t think about the consequences, they think about the grade,? sophomore Julie Dreyfus said.
Freshman Eli Hale blames human nature.
?It?s our natural drive to get ahead ? the fear of thinking that another person might be cheating and getting a better grade tempts you to do the same,? he said.
Borus has his own views.
?For some, it is laziness and disrespect,? he said. ?What they are saying to me is, ?I don?t care about your course, buddy.? For others, it is the mistaken belief that they need absolutely fabulous grades for jobs or law school.?
Regardless of the motivations, Bigelow says it just isn?t worth it.
?In all aspects of society, we are all responsible to ourselves and each other to represent work which is our own,? he said.