With cheating comes failure, suspension

Even after graduation, VCU can charge you with an honor code violation and take your degree.

Robert Clifton, former dean of student affairs for VCU’s Medical Campus said that he knew a student who graduated with a doctorate and two months later the school took his degree after realizing he turned in someone else’s work as his own. Clifton stressed that the violation must be reported within 45 days of discovering it, not within 45 days of the actual violation.

He explained that cheating has a much broader definition than many students think. VCU’s honor code defines cheating as: “Using or attempting to use unauthorized materials, information, notes, study aids or other devices, or obtaining unauthorized assistance from any source from work submitted as one’s own individual efforts in any class, clinic, assignment, or examination.”

“All of the sections of the honor code generally have the phrase ‘but not limited to,'” Clifton said. If omitted students would say, “I don’t see what I did is on the list,” he said. Students can be charged with multiple honor code violations such as cheating and lying for the same incident.

Clifton said students need to know the honor code because “they’ll be held responsible.”

“In some classes it might be generally okay to work together, but I think students need to find that out before they turn in something with their name on it that (other) people did,” Clifton said.

The minimum penalty for cheating is failure in a course. However, many graduate-level courses would give a cheating violator a W (withdrawal from the course) if a grade of F would result in removal from his or her program, Clifton said.

The second honor code violation carries with it a three month suspension from the university.

The university provides a special honor system orientation for international students. VCU 101 also stresses the honor system to first-year students, Clifton said.

Alan Briceland, an associate professor of history, said the key to an honor system is students and faculty members abiding by the honor code and reporting violations. Most colleges do not include failure to report a violation as a violation itself, which military schools include in their honor systems. Briceland said that a majority of the reports come from faculty, who are 10 times more likely to report a violation than students.

Students tend to evade the responsibility of reporting honor code violations, and they don’t want to report other students, he said.

Nonetheless, cheating does occur. Briceland said that in history classes students cheat most often while taking exams. After discovering one semester that 25 of 125 students in his class gave similar test answers, Briceland created multiple test versions.

“If they’re not cheating, then you’re too easy,” he said.

Manley Elliot Banks, honor council coordinator for the College of Humanities and Sciences, said procrastination and poor time management are two reasons students cheat. Banks suggested that students learn how to carefully manage their time so they can study more and lessen the temptation to cheat.

Editor’s Note: This is the sixth installment of an eight-part series intended to introduce and help students navigate VCU’s Honor Code. The series will be published every Thursday.

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