Academic Integrity for Faculty

If you are in charge of a classroom, then you have a duty to maintain academic integrity. From proctor to PTL to distinguished professor, you must ensure academic integrity standards are upheld and, where not, you have a duty to pursue violations. This site provides guidance on how to fulfill your duty.

Faculty guidance for maintaining academic integrity can be categorized into four parts:

  1. Prepare
  2. Publicize
  3. Prevent
  4. Pursue

Prepare

RBS adheres to the Rutgers University Academic Integrity Policy. Be familiar with its contents. Though much of what constitutes a violation is arguably common sense, it’s important to develop a clear understanding of the categories of violations and the procedures for enforcing violations. You’ll be much more comfortable enforcing the policy if you have a strong grasp of its details.

You should have a general understanding of when, why and how students cheat. The RU Academic Integrity website offers resources, such as this one, with background reading and hands-on methods.

Publicize

Students are more likely to cheat if they think that you are not concerned with cheating. To counter this:

- Include a statement about academic integrity in your syllabus. This statement should include reference to the RU Academic Integrity Policy and the Honor Pledge, and clarify any specific practices used in your course. Here is an example:

Academic Integrity. I do NOT tolerate cheating. You are responsible for understanding the RU Academic Integrity Policy. I will strongly enforce this Policy and pursue all violations. For all examinations and assignments, you will be required to sign the RU Honor Pledge, which states, “On my honor, I have neither received nor given any unauthorized assistance on this examination or assignment.” For all written assignments, I will screen your work through an automated plagiarism detection service that compares your work against a large database of past work.

- Reinforce the academic integrity statement by discussing it during the first class session. Don’t let it be forgotten amidst the other items listed on your syllabus. Be sure to openly address it. Ask students if they have any questions about it.

- Place the Honor Pledge on assignments and exams. Ensure students sign it each time. Test time is when they will be most tempted to cheat, so reinforcement is most important at test time.

Prevent

Often, cheating is a “crime of opportunity”; if the opportunity is not given, cheating will be greatly diminished. By structuring preventative measures into your course, you will save yourself and your students much trouble later. To do so:

- Do not use unaltered test bank questions. Students can gain access to publisher test banks. Besides, the questions are often horrible. If you use them as a base, always alter them substantially.

- Do not reuse exams. Exam answers inevitably leak out and student groups can track answers over time. If you return exams to the students, it is all the more essential that you reuse no questions.

- Use multiple versions of the exam. Vary the order of questions across versions.

- Alter seating and spacing during exams. Ideally, students should sit at least one seat apart, not side by side, and they should not know where they’re going to sit prior to arrival. This helps limit the risk of wandering eyes, pre-organized pacts, and the placement of cheating materials around desks.

- Require photo ID at exams. Unless you can visually identify each of your students, have them place their Rutgers ID on their desktop. Confirm their ID when passing out the exams and again when collecting exams.

- Use a different exam for the makeup exam. Students sometimes have a valid excuse for missing an exam and must be allowed an opportunity for a makeup exam. Ensure the format or questions differ from the original exam.

- Proctor closely. Treat exams as another class session – don’t do other work during them. Stand up. Walk around. Be visible and alert. Proctor your own exams and seek additional proctors if needed.

- Restrict the use of phones, calculators, and bathroom breaks during exams. Students can use smart phones to look up answers or to photograph exams, so ban them, collect them, or have them turn off all phones and place them visibly on their desktop. If calculators are required, be aware that students can program information into all but the most basic calculators. Don’t allow outside calculators. Provide calculators with only the required functions. See your department about supplying such calculators. Notify students to use the bathroom prior to the exam. In cases where bathroom use can’t be avoided during the exam, ensure the student leaves exam materials and phone in the classroom and, where possible, have a proctor escort the student, allowing only one student at a time to leave.

- Use the warning grade roster. This alerts students that they are at risk of receiving a poor or failing grade for poor academic work, poor attendance, or both. This notice is sent after the semester is significantly underway but while students still have the opportunity to drop the course. Students who remain in the course despite poor performance may be more prone to cheat once they have passed the deadline to drop the course and must remain. Thus, it is helpful to ensure they have ample warning.

- Use a plagiarism detection service. Turnitin is built into Blackboard. Run all written reports through it.

- Keep your course interesting and relevant. Students are more prone to cheat if they see no purpose in learning the material. You can’t force students to be interested, but you can certainly facilitate it. Put yourself in the students’ shoes. What would convince you that the material is useful? What would make you more engaged? For tips, see the RBS Teaching Excellence Center site on Blackboard.

Pursue

Despite your best efforts at prevention, sooner or later you’ll discover that a student has cheated. Your first step is to complete the Academic Integrity Reporting Form. Even if you intend to resolve the violation yourself, it is essential that you complete this form. If you fail to do so, not only will you hamper the university’s ability to systematically address academic integrity, but you will not know if the student has a prior history of violation(s). And if you do not know if the student has a prior history, then you cannot determine whether or not you have the discretion to handle the violation yourself.

Again, the first step: complete the Academic Integrity Reporting Form. Do this as soon as you become aware of the violation. If you are unsure if a violation has occurred, contact the RBS Academic Integrity Facilitator to discuss.

The Form asks you to list the “Type of Offense.” There are two types: nonseparable and separable. Section IIB of the RU Academic Integrity Policy defines these levels in detail and provides examples of violations and sanctions. The main distinctions are as follows (from p. 4 of Policy):

“Nonseparable violations are less severe violations for which the possible sanctions do not include suspension or expulsion from the University; separable violations are more severe violations for which the possible sanctions include suspension or expulsion. Whether a given violation is classified as nonseparable or separable depends on a number of factors including: the nature and importance of the academic exercise; the degree of premeditation or planning; the extent of dishonest or malicious intent; the academic experience of the student; and whether the violation is a first-time or repeat offense.”

Faculty have the option of handling nonseparable offenses but they cannot handle separable offenses.

If you have the option of handling the violation, you are strongly encouraged to do so. You are closest to the situation and so may best understand the situation and the appropriate sanction. However, you are never required to handle it; you may always pass it to the RBS Academic Integrity Facilitator.

Note that a relatively minor violation is a separable offense if it is a repeat offense. Filling out the Form initiates a search of Maxient, the database that tracks student conduct violations, so that it can be determined whether or not it is a first-time offense.

So, on the Form, for “Type of Offense”, select:

  • “Nonseparable (I will address . . .)” if: a) the student is an undergraduate; AND b) the violation is relatively minor; AND c) you believe it to be the student’s first violation; AND d) you wish to handle it.
  • “Nonseparable (Please have someone meet with the student)” if: a, b, and c above are ALL true, but you do NOT wish to handle it yourself.
  • “Separable” if any of a, b, or c are not true. Graduate students, major violations, and repeat violations are all categorized as separable violations.

For “Date of Incident”, please note that initial reporting, as well as another step (Notification of the Student), must be completed within 10 working days of the time you identify or are advised of the alleged violation. Thus, it is important to complete the Form immediately to get the process underway.

If you need further information to categorize the “Alleged Violation”, see Section II of the RU Academic Integrity Policy.  Note that “Type of case” is just a repeat of “Type of Offense” – so same applies. For anything that fits oddly into any box, you may clarify in the open text box, “Description of Incident.” 

After you submit the Form, if you choose to handle it, and the RBS Academic Integrity Facilitator (AIF) finds that this is indeed a first-time nonseparable violation, you will be notified to proceed. (If you are not notified within two business days, contact the AIF). The procedures are summarized here. More detailed instructions are available here. Additional summaries, guides, and even a flowchart are available here. But it’s not really that complicated: You meet with the student, consider his/her side of the story and any other evidence, reach a decision, and inform the student.

Bear in mind a few deadlines:

  • You must notify the student within 10 working days. Sample correspondence is available here.
  • You must send your decision to the student within 10 working days of meeting with him or her, or within 15 working days of the original notification if the student doesn’t respond to the notification or chooses not to meet with you. Refer to the same sample correspondence.

If the student agrees to abide by your decision, then implement your decision and submit a copy of the Academic Integrity Final Reporting Form to the RBS AIF. You’re done! But note that the student may appeal to the Campus Appeals Committee, so wait 10 working days before submitting the final report to the RBS AIF to be certain that no appeal has occurred. If the student appeals, the Campus Appeals Committee will provide further instruction – basically, they’ll ask you for all relevant materials, and then they’ll adjudicate the final sanction. They’ll let you know the final outcome.

If you do not wish to handle or it is a separable offense, the RBS AIF will handle. Your role will be that of Complaint Initiator and you may be called to present the case.