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Facts and Myths at WPI

Myth:

Students never get punished for cheating by the administration or the Campus Hearing Board, so why should I bother wasting my time by reporting academic dishonesty.

Fact:

Since 1998, 113 cases of academic dishonesty have been reported. Of that number, 110 students were found guilty and three were found not guilty. Five students were suspended or expelled for repeat violations of the academic honesty policy.

Myth:

If students read the Academic Honesty Policy or if it were discussed during Orientation, they should know that collaborating on homework with another student is a violation of the honesty policy.

Fact:

Each faculty member establishes his/her own rules and limits regarding collaboration. A student may erroneously assume that what was allowed in one course applies to another course as well. Faculty should clearly spell out their expectations at the beginning of the course to eliminate erroneous assumptions. Particular emphasis should be placed on defining expectations for group work.

Myth:

Unless a faculty member catches a student in the act of cheating, there is no way to prove that the student cheated, so I should not pursue the case.

Fact:

The standard used in campus judicial hearings is "preponderance of evidence," not "beyond a shadow of doubt." Also, hearsay and circumstantial evidence are allowed to be considered by the hearing board. (An example of circumstantial evidence: a faculty member presents to the board that it would be impossible for two students to do the same work on an assignment without cheating.)

Myth:

As a faculty member, I have the freedom to lower a student's grade or to give an "NR" on an assignment (or an "F" for a graduate student) if I believe the student has committed academic dishonesty.

Fact:

Faculty may only impose punitive action if the student has admitted guilt and agreed to the professor's sanction. WPI's policy limits the sanction imposed by the faculty to an "NR" for the course or lesser action and only with the student's admission and no past record. If a student has a past record or the student claims innocence, the case must be referred to the Campus Hearing Board. If the Board finds the student responsible, it can recommend a grade action to the professor. The Campus Hearing Board has a greater range of sanctions, up to and including expulsion from WPI.

Myth:

If a student admits to academic dishonesty and accepts an agreed upon sanction, I have the option to retain all records for the case without reporting the case to anyone other than my department head.

Fact:

All cases must be reported in writing to the Student Life Office citing the student's name, facts of the case, and sanction imposed. The student and faculty member must sign the report before it is sent. This is the only way that the Student Life Office can accurately report to another faculty member if a student has a past record and ensure that a student does not have multiple violations in different courses that go unreported.

Myth:

I can assure a student that his/her academic dishonesty record will remain confidential and will not be shared with anyone.

Fact:

Judicial records are available to prospective employers and other establishments (i.e., graduate schools, law and medical schools, American Bar Association) in accordance with federal regulations that require written permission from the student involved. In keeping with the WPI Academic Honesty Policy (Article V of the Constitution of the WPI Campus Judicial System), judicial records may be shared internally on a need-to-know basis to determine if a past record exists on a particular student.

Myth:

International students will be deported if they are found guilty of academic dishonesty.

Fact:

Academic honesty violations are not reported to the INS for action against an international student. If a student is in the United States on a visa and is suspended or expelled, the university must report that the student is no longer registered as a full-time student. Unless that student becomes accepted and enrolled as a full-time student at another institution, the INS may begin the deportation process because the student is no longer "in status."

Myth:

A student's judicial record is destroyed or sealed upon graduation or withdrawal from the university.

Fact:

It is the policy of WPI that judicial records shall be kept by the Student Life Office for a period of two years from the date of graduation or withdrawal from WPI, except when the sanction includes suspension or expulsion. In those cases, disciplinary records are kept in perpetuity. Judicial records are kept separate from a student's academic record.

Myth:

Students found guilty of academic dishonesty are always suspended from the university.

Fact:

WPI does not subscribe to an automatic sanction for violation of its Academic Honesty Policy. Rather, each violation is reviewed individually and sanctioning takes into consideration the unique situation surrounding the incident. Having said that, reviewing past precedent, most faculty who adjudicate cases within the department impose either a "0" for the assignment or an "NR" for the course. In cases where the student has a prior record of academic dishonesty, the Campus Hearing Board most often imposes a sanction of suspension or expulsion.

 
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