Conduct ye yourselves as adult students

Plagiarism has been the scourge of academia for centuries. But should every culprit be punished? When does plagiarism become an opportunity for teachers to teach?

A simple Google search would reveal that the paragraph above was lifted directly from an article in the Rhode Island College News. At UAA, plagiarism this blatant can earn stiff penalties, and according to a recently released report published by the Dean of Students Office, “Students of Concern and Their Behavior,” it has.

The biannual report, which presents a detailed analysis of different types of student misconduct in FY2013 (July 2012-June 2013), lists 39 separate incidents of plagiarism.

UAA found students to be responsible in over 80 percent of the 73 cases of plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty in FY2013. At UAA plagiarism can carry a penalty of a one-year suspension for first-time offenses.

A separate report published April 2012 by UAA’s Ad Hoc Committee on Academic Integrity found that 48 percent of students and 15 percent of faculty surveyed felt that “paraphrasing or copying a few sentences from (a) written source without citing,” was “trivial cheating” or “not cheating.” 41 percent of students and 14 percent of faculty surveyed felt the same about “fabricating or falsifying a bibliography.”

In addition to academic integrity, “Students of Concern and Their Behavior”  also covers things like harassment, endangerment, assault and drugs — highlighting violations for which there were a significant number of reports.

Title IX, a federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in educational institutions, has received greater attention since November 2012 when UAA hired two specialized Title IX investigators.

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The report lists 28 instances of sexual harassment in FY13, up from 18 in FY12 and eight reports of “non-consensual sexual intercourse,” up from three in FY12.

The university offers Rape Aggression Defense classes and hosts an annual Healthy Sexuality Week each February in recognition of Title IX importance.

Alcohol topped the list for number of incidents with 65 reports resulting in 123 violations. 93 percent of incidents involving alcohol occurred in UAA’s Residential Community, the majority in the Main Apartment Complex and North Hall.

Owing to what the report calls “increased student staff accountability and presence in UAA’s Residential Community” and an increase in enforcement, FY10 saw a seven-year peak of 210 alcohol violations.

The report claims concerning the recent much lower numbers that “increased enforcement sent a clear message to residents that violations of UAA’s alcohol and drug policies will not be tolerated.”

One form of alcohol misuse prevention employed by UAA is sending 21st birthday cards to students containing “a sobering message for students to celebrate their birthdays responsibly.”

UAA handles the hundreds of student misconduct cases it receives each year in different ways. Reports may be submitted directly by students, faculty and staff to the Dean of Students Office or they may come through the 11-member Care Team, established in 2009.

The report attributes a rise in claims handled by the Care Team between FY12 and FY13 to the hiring of Care Team Coordinator Lisa Terwilliger.

Either way, the reports eventually make it to the desk of Director of Student Conduct and Ethical Development Michael Votava, who oversaw the system that addressed 381 cases in FY13.

Cases rarely warrant suspension or expulsion in the eyes of the Dean of Students, but severe violations may require severe sanctions. In FY12 and FY13, three students were suspended for academic dishonesty. One student was suspended for possession of child pornography. Three students were expelled for sexual assault and one was expelled for armed robbery.

Last semester UAA only suspended one student for threatening behavior; two other possible suspension cases are pending involving academic dishonesty and sexual harassment.

A selection from the 21st birthday card sent by the Dean of Students office to students at UAA.
A selection from the 21st birthday card sent by the Dean of Students office to students at UAA.