Faculty TipSheet Academic Misconduct What to do if you Suspect a Student has Engaged in Academic Dishonesty

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Academic integrity ensures equity and fairness for student learning. Despite the hope that all students demonstrate academic integrity, one of the most challenging classroom issues is academic dishonesty. Whether a student is involved in cheating, plagiarism, or other academic misconduct, instructors are often put in the difficult position of trying to figure out what happened and how best to proceed. Student Affairs has provided clear steps to follow if you suspect a student has engaged in academic dishonesty. If you have questions or need help, contact Student Conduct and Community Standards at 402-472-2021 or visit studentconduct.unl.edu.

  1. Figure out what happened. First, ask, "Does the conduct that you suspect the student engaged in violate the Code of Conduct?" If so, what are the facts? Set up a time to talk with the student directly in a conversation rather than an interrogation. Tell the student what you suspect they did and ask them to tell their side of the story. Ask open-ended and focused questions to find out the details (who, what, when, where, and why). Ask follow-up questions if the answers are evasive or incomplete, or if you think there are problems with the student’s story (e.g., things don’t make sense or seem odd). If the student doesn’t seem to understand a question, ask the question another way. Take notes to help you remember what the student said and to help prepare a report later if necessary. If there are additional potential witnesses, talk to them and find out what they know. After you evaluate the facts and apply your professional judgment, ask yourself whether you believe that the student engaged in conduct that violates the Code of Conduct. If the answer is "no," you’re done.
  2. If you believe the student violated the Code of Conduct, you can impose a sanction. As an instructor, you have the choice to decide what sanction, if any, to impose (i.e., reduced grade, zero on assignment, grade of F). The Academic Integrity Report form lists potential sanctions. If you are not sure about the norms for sanctions in your department or field, consult with your department chair.
  3. If the sanction you impose might affect the student’s final grade, you MUST submit a report. If you impose a sanction, you need to decide if you believe there is a realistic likelihood that the sanction might affect the student’s final grade in the course. If the answer is "yes," submit an Academic Integrity Report detailing the facts of the case and the sanction you imposed. This report allows faculty to document important and relevant facts about the alleged academic misconduct, identify steps taken to respond to the misconduct, and recommend an additional response from Student Conduct and Community Standards. Often, a student who has engaged in academic misconduct has done so in more than one class. Submitting a report enables the Conduct Committee to collect all the facts across the institution, which is important for addressing the individual student and to observe patterns of academic integrity issues across the campus. The completed form should be emailed to studentconduct@unl.edu and copied to your department chair.