Topic from January 2004

This month, the Advising Forum presents the thirteenth in a series of advising case studies. The first six case studies were published in the journal May–October 2000; the second series was published April–September 2002. These case studies, in addition to other features in the journal, may be particularly useful in professional development programs for faculty and other academic advisers.

Case study #13: In a casual conversation with you, Lindsey (one of your advisees) happens to mention that Meredith (her roommate) is deceiving one of her instructors into thinking she is ill so she can get extra time to complete her tests and writing assignments. Lindsey refers to her roommate's instructor by name, without realizing that you know the instructor personally. Lindsey also doesn't realize that she has inadvertently made you aware of an instance of academic dishonesty. What would you do in this case, and why?

Your Responses Lindsey and her roommate need to learn that such behavior is not taken lightly when it becomes known in the academic community. She needs to learn that what she says and to whom she says it are important considerations. At Saint Louis University students are informed at the beginning of their college careers that academic dishonesty is not tolerated. They are given specific examples of various forms of academic dishonesty. I would tell Lindsey that the situation is wrong, it is academic dishonesty and it is her responsibility to report it. Also, that since I now have that information, it is my responsibility to report it. I would discuss with Lindsey all the reasons that any form of academic dishonesty is wrong. I would ask her questions about how she would feel if people in one of her classes were getting higher grades than she through various forms of academic dishonesty. I would ask Lindsey to meet with me to discuss this matter further.

Then, I would contact the instructor involved and inform that person of what I had been told in order that it could be explored in detail in conversation between the professor and the student involved.

-Carol Gilster, Saint Louis University, January 7

I would certainly tell the student that her roommate is making a huge mistake because she once she has been cited for academic dishonesty she can't go back. It changes your options and possibly your life. Someone will catch this student. I am torn about whether I would personally interfere but I have reported numerous offenders over the years. It is rarely just one time. I have found that students who cheat usually do it more than once. I feel very strongly that we have to have sanctions for those who cheat. I had one student years ago who stole stationery from one of the labs and tried to change grades in seven of nine courses required for the major. We caught him but they don't keep the records for more than five years so he can come back and do the same thing again!!!!

-Jane Tupper, University of California at Berkeley, January 9

The key here I think is that the information is revealed in a “casual” conversation, not one generally protected by the student/adviser type of relationship. In this case I think I would approach it by telling the student that she needs to inform her roommate of the seriousness of her offense, and that she (the offender) should “come clean” with her professor and that within a short period of time I will be contacting the professor. In other words approach it from the prospect of the student making things right but with a backup of assuring that the offense is brought to light.

-Ken Weaver, Clemson University, January 20

We talked about this scenario in our most recent staff meeting, and the consensus was that we would encourage Lindsey to talk with Meredith about the problem. We also thought that, odds are, Lindsey was bringing this up because she was bothered by it. I also talked with our judicial affairs officer, and he thought the staff person had an obligation to report this conduct to the instructor, at least as our rules about academic integrity are written.

-Ned Muhovich, University of Denver, January 20

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