Let professors decide punishment for cheating

We want to encourage students to take responsibility for promoting academic honesty by reporting any incidents of cheating to the appropriate professor or administrator. However, we do not believe students should be forced to sign an honor code that requires them to turn in other students for cheating. While we believe that it is the correct decision to blow the whistle on any offenders, we do not feel it is appropriate to punish those students who decide not to report cheating that they are aware of.

The results of the cheating and plagiarism survey revealed that 10 percent of professors who responded do not punish students who they catch violating principles of academic honesty. We feel strongly that all professors should address every instance of cheating and plagiarism in their classes. Although professors should have discretion over the punishment they ultimately impose upon a cheater, this does not mean that we will accept failure to punish students as an option. While we would like professors to seriously consider how they deal with academic dishonesty in their classes, professors should not be required to lay out particular penalties for specific offenses at the start of each semester. This action could facilitate cheating if students decide that the stated punshment is not enough to deter them from cheating.

We do not suggest the administration impose a standardized punishment policy that the faculty must enforce. Instead, we believe that the faculty, after using discretion to determine a punishment, should be required to report the infraction and the punishment to the administration so that the administration can have access to this record if a problem occurs with the same student in the future. If a professor wants an outside body to levy a punishment, the professor should have the option of giving the case to the Committee on Discipline for further investigation and an appropriate hearing.

While we would like professors to take a more active role in curbing cheating and plagiarism, we believe that the decision of discipline should ultimately be left up to individual professors, because they have a more personal knowledge of what constitutes academic dishonesty in their class. Individual punishments should be limited to the class in which they happened, unless multiple offenses have occurred. If this is the case, the Committee on Discipline should preside.