The honest truth: Academic dishonesty reports rise during finals

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As stress mounts during finals week, so do the reports for academic dishonesty as students become desperate to make the grade.

Usually, in universities, there is a rise in academic violation reports during midterms and finals, said Andel Fils-Aime, director of Student Conduct and Academic Integrity at UT. The Office of the Dean of Students has 13 different categories of academic dishonesty and saw a total of 867 violations in the 2016-17 school year.

“What usually proceeds any form of academic integrity report is a lack of understanding of the material and students genuinely being concerned about how the outcome in that specific course is going to impact their future longterm,” Fils-Aime said. “In many cases, it can be problematic if a student is receiving unauthorized assistance. You want to make sure that any student getting a certified degree from the University has done so with integrity and understands the work if they are wanting to do it professionally.”

Students giving or receiving unauthorized help to others made up 35 percent of the academic integrity reports last year with 305 violations, followed by collusion, plagiarism and copying. Sometimes students cheat without meaning to, such as when they work together without knowing the professor’s definition of collaboration, said Bahar Sahami, an international relations and global studies senior.

“Especially when it comes to academic integrity and conduct on campus, a lot of people are not aware of the actual rules or what constitutes as cheating, so they unfortunately get themselves into trouble without even wanting to,” Sahami said. “For such a demanding University, we don’t make a lot of our resources readily apparent for students and they don’t discover until later that they can go for tutoring or reach out for help.”

The Sanger Learning Center, Student Emergency Services and Counseling and Mental Health Center are all resources on campus for students to use while preparing for tests and handling the stress of finals week. The Student Conduct Advisory Committee is a student group designed to help connect students with those resources and remind them what it means to be academically honest.

“What we’re trying to do is remind people that they don’t have to rely on cheating, copying or plagiarism to do well,” said business sophomore Richard Liu, president of the Student Conduct Advisory Committee. “I don’t blame (students) if the only thing they’re guilty of is not knowing the exact boundary of academic integrity. Sometimes people might cheat and not even know it’s cheating.”

Although everyone feels stress or anxiety, it is important to recognize when you need help and who to reach out, said Cynthia Franklin, social work professor and associate dean for doctoral education.

“Sometimes (students) feel like they’re being backed into a corner and feel like they need to do anything to get out of that situation,” Franklin said. “Anytime you feel you can’t make it on your own, you’re having any sort of suicidal thoughts or you need some support during this time, make an appointment with the mental health center or even talk to a friend or your parents. Ask for help.”