While there isn’t a single correct way to respond to academic integrity violations, instructors often find the following practices useful:
- Document the evidence: Start documenting any evidence of a potential violation from the start in case it is necessary to hand that information over to someone else at a later point in the process. After meeting with the student, continue to document the process by sending the student an email with a summary of the conversation, omitting any sensitive information.
- Meet one-on-one: Attempt to meet with the student as soon as possible to discuss your concerns. An initial meeting can establish the nature of the violation, the reason(s) for the violation, and provide an opportunity to explain what will happen next. In cases where the school considers faculty recommendations for an appropriate penalty, this meeting can provide important information.
- Presume the best: Consider entering that initial meeting presuming the best of the student – that the violation was a well-intentioned error and that it will be a learning opportunity for the student, or that there may not, in fact, have been a violation. Some faculty find that this benefits their own well-being and protects them from entering into a generally hostile relationship with students.
- Be clear with the student: Provide as much clarity to the student as possible about what will happen next. This can not only help the student prepare for the rest of the process, but can also help the instructor protect their own time.
- Point the student to resources: If possible and appropriate, refer the student to other offices on campus that might be able to support them moving forward. For instance, if a student is dealing with high levels of anxiety, the instructor might refer the student to University Counseling Services; if a student is deeply concerned about accidental plagiarism moving forward, the Writing Center may help them develop research and writing strategies.
- Let the system support you: If a student refuses to engage in the conversation or acts in bad faith, resist the urge to continue pushing until the student relents or confesses. It’s not the instructor’s responsibility to determine a student’s guilt or innocence, and it’s not worth the time or energy to attempt to. In these instances, it is typically best for everyone involved if the instructor simply ends the conversation, documents everything – including the student’s denial of wrongdoing – and then passes the case along according to school procedures.
These recommendations do not always easily map onto the particular situations faculty find themselves facing. When navigating such a significant teaching challenge, it is often worthwhile to reflect on how to responsibly engage with the student while honoring the values that animate one’s own teaching. It can also be helpful to reach out to a fellow instructor – while honoring student privacy – for additional perspective and support.
If you are developing a plan for responding to potential instances of academic dishonesty or dealing with a specific instance of it, you can always confidentially consult with a CTE staff member by email at email@example.com.