Dean of Students
Faculty& Staff Frequently Asked Questions
It can be difficult to navigate and talk about academic integrity in the classroom! The Dean of Students Office is here to help! Below are some helpful considerations for you as you set expectations, help students understand academic integrity standards, and how the Dean of Students Office can help support you.
What is the definition of academic misconduct at MSU Denver?
As stated in the Student Code of Conduct, at MSU Denver, academic misconduct "includes but is not limited to, cheating, plagiarism, and submitting same work for different classes. The term cheating includes but is not limited to: use of any unauthorized assistance in taking quizzes, tests, or examinations; misrepresenting class attendance; dependence upon the aid of sources beyond those authorized by the faculty member in writing papers, preparing reports, solving problems, or carrying out other assignments; or the acquisition, without permission, of tests or other academic materials belonging to a member of the University faculty, staff, or students."
"Plagiarism includes but not is limited to, the use by paraphrase or direct quotation of the published or unpublished work of another person without full and clear acknowledgment. It also includes the unacknowledged use of materials prepared by another person or agency that may or may not be engaged in the selling of term papers or other academic materials."
"Submitting same work for different classes means submitting substantive portions of the same work in more than one class without disclosure to, and approval from, faculty members involved."
You can find a list of academic integrity standards on our website here.
Why do students plagiarize or cheat?
There are many different reasons or circumstances on why students cheat or plagiarize:
- Struggling to grasp the material: Students may resort to using unauthorized resources or asking a friend if they are struggling to understand. Some students are nervous or feel ashamed to ask for help or look like they don't know what they are doing.
- Lack of time: Students may struggle balancing the different obligations they have in their lives. Or they may have waited to complete an assignment until the last minute, resulting in choices that led to academic dishonesty.
- Thinking that they many not get caught: Students may not think that academic integrity standards are important or may not realize the impacts of their actions. The academic conduct process emphasizes why these standards are important, not just in their academic lives, but to their future work in their field.
- Significant stress outside of the classroom: Students' lives are complicated. Most students are not just students, but have many different things going on in their lives, from multiple jobs to family obligations to homelessness to financial concerns. These challenges and life circumstances can impact their academics.
- Developing writing skills: Students come to MSU Denver from varied backgrounds. Not all students have been introduced to proper citation practices or how to utilize proper sources. Some students' first language may not be English or may have a different cultural understanding of academic integrity. Finding your writing voice and developing your writing skills takes time and some students may need additional support along the way.
How does the academic misconduct process work?
Faculty determine if academic misconduct occurred (per the definitions in the Student Code of Conduct) and assign any applicable grade consequence to the student. Faculty are also responsible for submitting an Academic Misconduct Incident Report with the Dean of Students Office. In the referral, faculty may include documentation of the misconduct.
Once the Dean of Students Office receives a referral, the conduct professional will notify the faculty that the referral was received and will check-in with any questions about the situation. The conduct professional will then notify the student that the incident has been reported and, depending on the severity of the incident and/or any prior incidents, may also meet with the student.
The conduct professional may assign university sanctions that are designed to address accountability and any academic/educational needs. The conduct professional will keep in communication with the referring faculty throughout the process.
The approach to academic misconduct is to address the underlying reasons why the conduct occurred and to educate students on their academic responsibilities.
If I plan to submit a report to the Dean of Students Office, should I notify the student?
Faculty are encouraged to speak directly with student about the impact of academic misconduct and the referral to the Dean of Students Office after any incident occurs. These conversations may be challenging. When faculty reach out to students, it is encouraged to inform the student that they are being referred to the Dean of Students Office, if the student is receiving any grade consequences, and to give the student an opportunity to discuss the situation with you. Opening a dialogue with students will give them an opportunity to understand your concerns, the consequnces of what happened, and can illuminate a potential path for how the student can move forward in the class.
If I am concerned about academic misconduct, what are some tips for a conversation with the student?
If faculty suspects academic misconduct and is not sure how to proceed, it is encouraged that the faculty reach out to the student to schedule a meeting to discuss the situation. Have the student bring their materials, drafts, sources, syllabus, etc. to the meeting. Helpful questions and tips for the meeting include:
- Can you help me understand how you completed the assignment/exam? What was your process?
- How did you come to this conclusion/find this answer?
- What sources did you use? How did you find this information?
- What do you mean by this sentence?
- Where did you look for sources? Did you use the library, databases, certain websites?
This approach invites students to share information and may give you additional information that will inform your referral to the Dean of Students Office.
What are common outcomes of an academic misconduct meeting?
When students are referred for academic misconduct, they are already found responsible by the referring faculty member. The conduct professional will assign students sanctions that address student accountability and any further education/academic needs. Typically, students receive a warning for the first referral for most situations. If students continue to violate academic integrity standards, they can see elevated sanctions.
When appropriate, the conduct professional may also assign educational sanctions that address needs the student and/or faculty identified through the process. Educational sanctions include connecting students to academic resources (such as the Writing Center, Tutoring Center, Immigrant Services Center), reflection paper that asks students to consider more deeply the impacts of their conduct and how it relates to the ethical guidelines of their chosen field, letter of amends when relevant to involved parties, connecting students to other campus resources to help them improve personal outcomes (such as Career Services, Peer Mentoring, etc.), among other opportunities to encourage continued learning from the situation.
What if it is a minor infraction?
Faculty are to report any incident of academic misconduct, regardless of severity. However, for minor first time infractions, the conduct professional may notify the student of the report, issue them a warning to not engage in further problematic behavior, and share resources but take no further student conduct action.
What are some best practices for ensuring academic integrity in my courses?
The best thing is to be clear and communicative with your students about academic integrity expectations. Setting expectations and checking-in about academic integrity at the beginning of course, on the syllabus, on the various assignment or exam instructions, and during your classes throughout the semester, sets the tone and symbolizes the importance of these standards in your class. Here are some best practices to consider:
- Have a visible syllabus statement on academic integrity and why it is important. While students may have seen the standard message from one course to another, it is helpful to connect the standards to how integrity in the classroom translates into the professional world.
- Include statements on specific academic integrity standards in addition to the standard syllabus statement. If there are specific issues in your course that you would like to address, add it! For example, online courses or field-specific courses may see higher rates of outsourcing. Or you may want to put a clear warning that students cannot resubmit previously submitted work. You can add additional language in your syllabus, such as:
Example Statement on Outsourcing Websites:
In any course, the goal is for students to learn the material and produce original work to help them with upcoming courses or the field. Online sources or websites that require students to pay for their full services, will take away from a student's learning. While these sites may market themselves as a tutoring resource, using them is a violation of academic integrity standards and is considered outsourcing. If you are struggling with a concept or assignment, please reach out to your professor for assistance. They can share with you what sources are authorized and which may be considered outsourcing. Outsourcing websites may include, Chegg, Homeworkhelp.com, CourseHero, and others (this is not an all encompassing list; double check with your professor first before using an online source, especially if it requires payment).
Example Syllabus Statement on Resubmitting Work:
In any course, the goal is for students to learn the material and produce original work to help them with upcoming courses or the field. While you may want to keep working on a topic area that you are passionate about, may have completed a similar assignment, or may be retaking a course, you must contact your professor to ask permission before resubmitting any previous work. Not doing so takes away from original work and improving your learning. It also can be unfair to other students as they do not have the advantage of turning in previous work. While you may be allowed to modify, use new sources, or use portions of previous work, you may be required to start the assignment from the beginning.
- Add a Syllabus Quiz to your first week or two of classes. A syllabus quiz helps the students familiarize themselves with the course expectations and content of the syllabus. To learn more about syllabus quizzes, go to The Chronicle of Higher Education's article, "How to turn you syllabus into an FAQ, and why you should" (Loepp, 2019).
- Include an academic integrity or plagiarism quiz in your initial assignments. This type of quiz helps students become more familiar with expectations, academic integrity scenarios, and best practices (such as citation or patchwriting errors). You can find examples to use in your classes on the Faculty Resources page.
- Include expectations on Blackboard when students take quizzes or exams. You can include a question at the beginning of the task that prompts students to acknowledge the expectations before starting. For example, you may want to include:
During this exam, you may use your book, class notes, and slides. You may not collaborate with other students or use outside resources. Please acknowledge that you have read and understand these expectations.
What are some ideas for having a conversation in the class about academic integrity?
Having a discussion with your whole class on academic integrity can be vital. Academic integrity is not just about right or wrong, but it is about helping students make ethical decisions, especially as we prepare them for the field they are pursuing. Some helpful ideas include:
- Lead a discussion on academic integrity. Some helpful questions include:
- What comes to mind when you hear academic integrity?
- What do you know so far about the ethical guidelines in this field? How are they connected to academic integrity standards?
- Why should academic integrity matter to students? Faculty? MSU Denver as a whole?
- What are the impacts of academic integrity? How can these situations have a ripple effect on students, professors, and the whole class?
- Explain why academic integrity is important to you. You may have a different take based on personal experiences. You can also share your approach to helping students understand material if they are struggling outside of class. This type of personal conversation can build trust.
- Use the Letter to My Students By Dr. Bill Taylor as a way to start conversation. Dr. Taylor explains the importance of academic integrity and also his promises to his students. You can find the letter on our Faculty Resources page.
- Have a guest speaker talk about campus resources and expectations. Invite the Writing Center for an orientation on resources for students. You can also invite the Dean of Students Office to present on academic integrity. Call us at 303-615-0220 to coordinate a visit.
Why is it important that the Dean of Students Office be notified of Academic Misconduct violations?
It is possible that a student is engaging in academic misconduct or other misconduct in multiple settings across the institution. The Dean of Students Office is the record keeper for all violations of the Student Code of Conduct, including academic misconduct. Although an individual member of the faculty would not have knowledge of concerns in other areas, particularly in other departments, the staff in the Dean of Students Office will aggregate information from all areas to gain a holistic understanding of the student’s behavior and/or related concerns or circumstances.
Additionally, the staff in the Dean of Students Office will refer the student to relevant resources, engage them in developmental dialogue, and/or assign other institutional sanctions to help the student change his or her behavior, depending on the incident that has been reported, as well as any prior history. As such, it is important that faculty promptly report any finding of academic misconduct to the Dean of Students Office, regardless of the level or severity.
What can be shared with faculty if they call with a concern?
Staff in the Dean of Students Office closely adhere to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). However, faculty members and the staff in the Dean of Students Office may freely discuss the incident at hand, including questions pertaining to whether or not particular behaviors may constitute a violation of the Student Code of Conduct, and possible sanctions and outcomes for the students. The reporting faculty member will be notified of the outcome of the student conduct meeting, if applicable. Both the reporting faculty member and the department Chair will also be copied on the notification and outcome letters to the student, which will include information about institutional sanctions assigned, if applicable.