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April 18, 2024

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Spring Housing Guide

Honesty is the best policy

When Shannon Loudy, senior, was accused of plagiarism on a group-project two years ago, she wasn’t familiar with the University’s Academic Honesty Policy.

Loudy’s group, and her estimate of 70 percent of her Women’s Studies class, were accused of plagiarism based on the grounds that they used Internet sources.

Even though Loudy knew she was innocent, she was nearly discouraged enough by her ignorance of the policy to give in and accept the charge.

“At first I was going to be like ‘whatever,'” she said. “[But] I wanted to fight it because I didn’t really do anything wrong.”

Loudy and her classmates met individually with their academic dean, and the plagiarism charges were dropped.

“It was a lot easier than I thought,” Loudy said. “After my appeal she [her professor] went back and changed my grade.”

Loudy isn’t different from most students at the University, according to Academic Honesty Committee Member Matt Seckel, who said he’s found most students have never read the policy.

“There is a very pervasive ignorance of the Academic Honesty Policy and the way it works amongst the students,” he said.

The thought of being accused of plagiarism – or any violation of BGSU’s Academic Honesty Policy – instills fear in the hearts of most college students, and from day one of class, students are told to follow the policy found in the University’s student handbook.

But how many students actually read the policy until they are faced with an accusation?

Students should first be aware of the six possible forms of honesty violations: cheating, forgery, bribery or threats, fabrication, plagiarism and facilitating academic dishonesty.

Instructors have the right to charge a student with any of these six violations based on their own interpretation of the situation, and the instructor can determine and impose the sanction, according to the policy.

“The professor is the persecutor, the judge and the jury when it comes to the student being charges,” Seckel said.

According to the policy, instructors are required to “make a good-faith effort” to meet with the accused student to discuss the charges within five days of discovering the violation. If the instructor feels the student violated the policy, then they decide on a punishment.

Barbara Waddell, coordinator of the Academic Honesty Committee, emphasized the importance of students meeting with their instructors after they’ve been accused.

“Sometimes students don’t talk, but that doesn’t stop the process,” she said.

If a student is unsatisfied with their instructor’s decision in the case, they have the right to appeal to the Academic Honesty Committee within seven days after they’re told of the sanction.

“Everyone has the right to appeal,” Waddell said.

However, hearings will only be granted if the student can prove that there is new evidence in the case, there was a procedural error or an error in the interpretation of the evidence.

Students must submit a written appeal arguing one or more of these three criteria to the committee. A hearing will be granted if the committee feels the student proved one of the three criteria, which isn’t always easy to prove.

Between fall 2004 and summer 2005, 21 students appealed – and only five hearings were granted.

Seckel said that just because one of the criteria can be proven doesn’t mean the committee will automatically grant a hearing.

If the violation is blatantly obvious – for instance if it can be proven the student took their paper verbatim from the Internet – a hearing won’t be granted.

When students do go before the committee they’ve been fairly successful, according to Waddell. She said that students have proven to be resourceful in arguing their cases.

“Students don’t always lose,” she said. “That’s why the committee is important, they are really thoughtful.”

Of the two hearings granted in fall 2004, one student was successful in clearing their name and the other student failed to prove their innocence. And of the three hearings granted in spring 2005, two students were able to prove their innocence.

During committee hearings students represent themselves, as do instructors. Both sides are allowed to have external advisors that can help, but the advisors aren’t allowed to speak.

Skeptics have questioned the part of the policy, but Waddell defends it.

“The logic is, ‘Who knows your cases better than you?'” she said. “You were there, you know what happened better than anyone else.”

Seckel and Waddell agree that it’s worth students’ time to know their academic rights by reading the policy. By knowing their rights, Seckel believes students can protect themselves.

“The future of their education is at stake,” he said.

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