- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 8, 2002

More incidents of cheating are being reported at the University of Maryland and administrators say the increase is a good sign for the university.
Thirty-nine more cases of academic dishonesty have been reported at the College Park campus this year, said Gary Pavela, director of the school's judicial program. The judicial office has received 201 cases so far this year, compared with 162 cases by the same time last year. Administrators expect a flurry of reported cases before commencement May 23.
But the higher number does not mean more cheating is going on, Mr. Pavela said, it means the university community is more aware of and committed to academic integrity, in light of a recently implemented honor pledge.
"We're only catching a percentage of people who are cheating," Mr. Pavela said. "But it's going up."
All students must write the Maryland Honor Pledge and sign their names on papers, essays and other substantive assignments.
The pledge reads, "I pledge on my honor that I have not given or received any unauthorized assistance on this assignment/examination."
The student-initiated pledge was approved by university President C.D. Mote Jr. last May and took full effect this spring semester. It has been put in place at a time when the school is trying to increase its standing and reputation as a top academic institution.
Yet Vice President for Student Affairs Linda Clement said the honor pledge was not a change for the sake of the school's image.
"We want to be a model for academic integrity," she said.
Students are instructed to write the pledge and sign their names to it on every assignment or test worth 20 percent or more of the course grade, according to the school's guide to the honor pledge. Students can decline, but if they do so, faculty are supposed to ask for a verbal explanation.
"What [the pledge] does is create a public commitment to being honest," said Robert Cialdini, regents professor of psychology at Arizona State University.
Experts say the University of Maryland should expect more reports of academic dishonesty.
"That same phenomenon has been experienced by other schools that have introduced honor codes," said Don McCabe, a professor of management at Rutgers University and founding president of the National Center for Academic Integrity at Duke University. "All of a sudden, you've got more people paying attention to it."
Mr. McCabe said honor pledges put the onus for academic integrity on the students by keeping them accountable and treating them as decision-making adults.
At schools with honor pledges, Mr. McCabe said, students "clearly understand the onus is on them."
The University of Virginia in Charlottesville has an honor code that dates to 1842. It was put to the test last year when 157 students were investigated on accusations of plagiarism.
At the University of Maryland, the number of academic-dishonesty cases has risen over the past few years. Mr. Pavela attributes the increase to the introduction of the school's Code of Academic Integrity in 1990.
In 1999, 155 cases were referred to the school's judicial office. In 2000, the number of cases was 165, and in 2001 it increased to 236, said Andrea Goodwin, assistant director of academic integrity.
The University of Maryland Student Honor Council, which was created 12 years ago, adjudicates all cheating cases. The council, which has 40 students who have been approved by university vice presidents, reviews each case and has final authority to impose penalties, Mr. Pavela said.
The council has the authority to impose the penalty of a grade of "XF," which stands for failure due to academic dishonesty. This mark goes on a student's transcript.
The XF grade is the standard penalty for first-time offenders. If there are aggravating circumstances, the council may suspend or expel a student, and if there are mitigating circumstances, the punishment may be an F in the course or a score of zero on the assignment, Miss Goodwin said.
Last year, 106 students received the penalty grade XF. Students may retake the course if they wish or if they are required to for graduation, but the XF grade remains on a student's transcript.


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