UT student on academic probation after posting in Facebook group

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After posting in a private UT Facebook group asking for old exams, a UT student found himself facing consequences with the administration.

On Jan. 19, a UT student posted in the UT Professors/Class Reviews group on Facebook, which has more than 18,000 members, seeking old exams for a math course. Four days later, Pham posted in the same group, saying he had received academic probation from the University.

Although the UT administration does not actively search students’ social media pages, students could potentially face serious consequences for content they post online.

“We are not actively checking every student’s social media accounts,” said Andel Fils-Aime, director of student conduct and academic integrity. “If something is brought to our attention that might be of concern for a potential rule violation, that’s typically when we would look into that matter a bit further to see if anything might be inconsistent with our values and expectations of any student.”

According to the University’s student discipline and conduct rules, “each member of the University is expected to uphold (UT’s) values through integrity, honesty, trust, fairness and respect toward peers and community.”

Fils-Aime said there are different types of behavior that can all fall under academic dishonesty and each case is looked at uniquely by the University.

The University rules define academic dishonesty as including, but not limited to, cheating, plagiarism, collusion, falsifying academic records, misrepresenting facts and any act to give unfair academic advantage.

“Much of what we try to evaluate is whether the behavior or the action of the student is designed in a way to give them some form of an academic advantage,” Fils-Aime said. “If something a student has is not readily available to all students in a course, then that could be a case of an academic advantage.”

According to data sent to The Daily Texan by Fils-Aime, for the 2016–2017 year, providing or receiving aid or assistance was the top academic violation, with 317 cases. Collusion, plagiarism, copying and failure to comply with instructions were the other top academic violations, totaling 803 cases for the year.

Sophomores and seniors were the two class years that received the most academic violations, but there were violations from all class years from undergraduate, law, masters and doctoral students.

“(The punishment for the student) depends on the course, the nature of the assignment and how egregious that behavior was,” Fils-Aime said. “There is a range of disciplinary sanctions that can result in some level of accountability for the student.”

The most common punishment from the University was academic integrity probation, a period of time during which a student must comply with specific University-mandated terms. Other punishments from 2016–2017 included the suspension of 26 students and the expulsion of two students from the University.

Students who receive punishments for misconduct may write an appeal to President Gregory Fenves, who has the final decision.

Following the violation in the UT Professors/Class Reviews group, government junior Son Nguyen started a new group for the same purpose but said he will monitor his page to ensure there are no violations of University rules occurring.

“I will personally be enforcing rules and regulations by daily checkups on posts within my page,” Nguyen said.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to omit the name of the student who posted in the Facebook group.