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Cheating numbers hard to peg at BU

Deborah Poff

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Deborah Poff

Plagiarism is the more common form of academic dishonesty among Brandon University students, according to Dr. Gervan Fearon.

Fearon, BU’s vice-president, academic and provost, said since students have access to such a wide range of information, they often don’t know how to properly reference the material.

"The student might not have known they needed to include a reference even when generally referring to some material," Fearon told the Sun. "That is constantly a matter that I think all professors who are asking for written materials to be handed in are constantly being very vigilant about."

While there have been cases of academic misconduct at BU, it’s difficult to provide centralized data because they are dealt within each individual faculty, according to Tom Brophy, associate vice-president, student services, enrolment management and university registrar.

Brophy said there’s also a chance that not all of the university’s faculties are tracking these cases in one database aside from attaching the information regarding the incident to a student’s file.

"It’s certainly something that we should be tracking centrally," Brophy said.

A recent survey conducted by CBC News showed that more than 6,800 Canadian university students were disciplined for academic cheating in 2011-12.

CBC asked 54 universities to provide the number of 2011-12 academic misconduct cases "that went through a formal discipline process."

Forty-one institutions, including the University of Manitoba and the University of Winnipeg, supplied data. According to CBC, the surveys showed that more than 50 per cent of students admitted to different forms of cheating.

While Ottawa’s Carleton University had the "highest punishment rate," at 607 cases or 2.6 per cent of its student population, U of M’s rates affected one per cent of the student body, with 286 cases. CBC also reported that plagiarism was charged in more than 50 per cent of all cases, unauthorized aid including inappropriate collaboration accounted for 22 per cent, and 10 per cent involved cheating on tests.

Among the 286 cases of infractions U of M reported, 135 were due to plagiarism. At the U of W, plagiarism accounted for 18 of 22 reported cases of cheating.

More than half of the universities surveyed tracked these statistics by the type of offence committed, according to CBC.

BU president Deborah Poff said she wasn’t made aware of the survey, but would have been open to filling it out on behalf of the university.

"If it had come to me, I probably would have filled it out," Poff said. "For the last decade this has been an increasing pattern ... more and more people will even admit to plagiarism and other forms of cheating.

"It’s a concern at every university, not only in Canada."

Poff said a preventative method is informing students about the rules and importance of being academically honest.

"If you spend more time talking about why it’s a problem ... students seem less apt to do it," she said. "We want (students) to realize that creating their own knowledge, memorizing things themselves and producing their own ideas is important at this stage in their life and for the rest of their life."

Throughout her career, Poff said she’s dealt with several incidents of plagiarism. She added it’s "unfortunate" universities have these problems, but it all comes down to "honesty and integrity."

She said smaller class sizes at BU also make it more difficult for students to cheat.

Fearon said academic misconduct cases are dealt with on an individual basis. Common practice at BU is to first confront the student, and if found dishonest, documentation of the incident is attached to the student’s transcript.

Depending on the severity of the situation, that information generally stays on the student’s record for five years or until they graduate. Repeat offences could also result in an expulsion, suspension or a failing grade in the course or on the assignment, Fearon said.

Fearon added that although the number of these sorts of cases at BU "would be relatively small from year to year," the university takes "every single case very seriously."

According to the universities that participated in CBC’s survey, the most common penalty handed out was a grade reduction, which includes a zero on the assignment or in the entire course. Other penalties included notes on transcripts, suspensions and expulsions.

» lenns@brandonsun.com, with files from CBC News

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition February 26, 2014

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Plagiarism is the more common form of academic dishonesty among Brandon University students, according to Dr. Gervan Fearon.

Fearon, BU’s vice-president, academic and provost, said since students have access to such a wide range of information, they often don’t know how to properly reference the material.

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Plagiarism is the more common form of academic dishonesty among Brandon University students, according to Dr. Gervan Fearon.

Fearon, BU’s vice-president, academic and provost, said since students have access to such a wide range of information, they often don’t know how to properly reference the material.

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