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Supporting Teaching Excellence

Maintaining Integrity in the Classroom

November 19, 2007

By Valerie Orleans

What do you do if a student plagiarizes a passage for a paper? Or cheats on a test? Or disrupts a class?

Faculty members at Cal State Fullerton have many sanction options when responding to violations of academic integrity under the university’s academic dishonesty policy.

For that reason, Andi Stein, associate professor of communications, and Sandra Rhoten, associate dean of students for judicial affairs, have developed a one-and-a-half hour program, “Supporting Teaching Excellence: Maintaining Integrity in the Classroom,” to help faculty members familiarize themselves with policies at CSUF and learn how to handle violations of these policies.

The program will be offered at 4-5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 28, in the Hetebrink Room of the Titan Student Union, and 10-11:30 a.m. Friday, Nov. 30, in the Academic Senate chambers on the northeast side of Titan Shops.

“It’s important for faculty members to know what to do when these kinds of problems develop,” said Stein. “We find many first-time teachers and professors often have a rosy view of how students will behave. They are convinced that all students will be delighted to be in their classes and never cause problems. While most students do follow the academic guidelines, there will always be those who don’t. And frankly, some students just don’t know any better.”

For that reason, Stein and Rhoten applied for a University Planning Initiative to offer the workshops. The goal is to have faculty members think about how they would handle these problems before they occur and develop ways to prevent the problems in the first place.

“Often newcomers to teaching are simply astounded when they discover cheating or plagiarism,” said Rhoten. “Students may plagiarize to save time if they’re busy or they’re not sure of a subject. Or sometimes they simply don’t realize they can’t just take something off the Web.”

Stein recalled a time when, as part of a feature-writing class, she had her students write a brochure describing the campus bookstore. Five of the students went to the Web and literally lifted existing copy for their project.

“I was getting really mad until I realized that one of the students who did this was one of my best students,” she said. “I believe she sincerely didn’t realize that taking copy off their web site was wrong.”

In addition to failing the students on the assignment, Stein invited the Web site writer to class and they discussed how using existing material, without permission, was dishonest.

Cases of plagiarism make up most of the cases that Rhoten sees in her office, especially now that it’s easier to catch those who plagiarize because of new Web-based programs that professors can use to detect plagiarism.

“We talk to faculty about how to prevent plagiarism, how to set up an environment that discourages cheating, and how to talk to their students about how to cite sources. Sadly, not all students are aware of these facts,” Stein said. “Our goal is to prevent problems and, if not, help the faculty member determine how to deal with problem behavior.”

“For instance, some professors may dock the student’s project grade if it has been determined that parts of it were plagiarized,” Rhoten said. “Others will want to kick them out of a class. Because different professors use different consequences, faculty members need to be clear about their policies with students and tell them what the consequences will be for dishonesty.”

Rhoten and Stein encourage professors to include their disciplinary policies in the class syllabus and Dean of Students Office has brochures available that professors can hand out to students detailing what constitutes academic integrity.

To register for the two upcoming programs or for more information, contact Andi Stein at or call 278-5434.
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