Honor Council outreach program to help prevent academic dishonesty

The University of Miami Honor Council recently launched a new outreach program to incentivize students to report cases of cheating.

After talking to faculty, students and members of other universities, the council found that cheating is still a prominent problem in the classroom setting, and students are not doing enough to solve it. Their campaign will try to raise awareness about the degrading effect cheating has on the value of degrees, according to UM Honor Council President Alison Galetti.

“We are trying to entice students and let them know that when you cheat, you are affecting the value of your degree,” Galetti said. “You just paid a substantial amount of money, sometimes even taking out massive student loans, for something that isn’t worth much.”

As a first step toward addressing academic dishonesty at UM, the Honor Council has been distributing flyers that illustrate simple steps students can take to report an act of cheating. These include speaking to your professor, reporting the incident to the Dean of Student’s Office and reporting it to an Honor Council member who can offer different paths and options.

Students must take into account that if they choose to report an act of academic dishonesty to the Dean of Students Office, they must be present at the hearing. It is an Honor Council policy that students have the right to face their accusers.

“Sometimes you’ll see someone cheating and don’t know what to do because you don’t want to go up to that person,” said Nidhi Patel, vice president of the Honor Council. “It’s kind of awkward for students when they see something like that, so that’s why you have the different options we mention in the flyer. The first one is just to talk to your professor, so if you do that, you did your job.”

The Honor Council, which operates under the Dean of Students Office, is comprised of 30 members across all colleges on campus who educate students about academic integrity and encourage them to act as adjudicators. They also conduct hearings that deal with cases of academic dishonesty. The council will hold information sessions for those interested in joining on Feb. 22 and Feb. 25. For more information, email honorcouncil@miami.edu.

In addition to their new outreach program, the Honor Council holds annual events to educate students about the different types of academic dishonesty. Academic Integrity Week, for instance, takes place every November.

“Our main purpose is to educate,” Galetti said. “I remember once a student went to an Academic Integrity Week event and there was a true-or-false question saying, ‘You can plagiarize yourself.’ She said, ‘Of course you can’t.’ But in actuality, if a program like Safe Assign matches your paper with another paper you’ve submitted, it is plagiarism by definition and could technically be reported to the Honor Council.”

According to Galetti, one of the main reasons behind the Honor Council’s outreach program is to make sure everyone is on the same page. At a university with people from so many different backgrounds, it is important to remember that everyone understands processes differently, she added.

By getting students involved, the Honor Council hopes to address the problem of academic dishonesty more efficiently.

“A big stigma we get faced with is that we are a policing force, and we’re not that at all,” Galetti said. “We’re here to educate and to try to dissuade students from engaging in any form of academic dishonesty. It’s not good for them, it’s not good for us, and overall, it just makes us look bad. We’re trying to protect the integrity of campus.”


Featured image courtesy of Flickr user Joe Gratz.