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Dealing With Lesser Offences

If you suspect that a student has committed a lesser offence of academic misconduct, you must contact the student in a timely fashion.

Lesser Academic Offences include assignments and tests that are worth 25% or less of the total possible grade for the course and first offences. In other words, if an assignment or test is worth 20% but it is a 2nd offence, then the case should be treated as a major (or more serious) academic offence.

How to notify a student

What to say to the student in the meeting

If a misconduct has not occurred

If a misconduct has occurred

Possible Sanctions

How to notify a student about an allegation of lesser offence of academic misconduct:

In an email sent to the student’s UOIT email* address, tell the student:

  1. that there is evidence of academic misconduct (i.e., plagiarism);
  2. that you must speak with the student within 5 working days;
  3. the meeting is the opportunity for the student to respond to these allegations; and,
  4. if the student fails to meet with you, the case automatically moves from being a lesser offence to being a major offence that is dealt with by the Dean’s office (Academic Integrity Committee).

NOTE: If possible, it is recommended that you meet with the student with a witness in the room. The witness may be a Faculty member, TA, or other person, and does not interact with the student or take part in the determinations. The person is simply a witness to the discussion. The student is also allowed to bring to the meeting a person as an advisor or witness.

*You may send the email to the student using Blackboard, if you regularly communicate with students in that way, but you must also send it to their UOIT.net email address because it is the official method of university communication.

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What to say to the student in the meeting:

  1. After greeting the student, explain the allegation.
  2. Open-ended questions can be a good way to start the conversation: what can you tell me about what I am seeing in your assignment? Can you tell me what happened?
  3. Keep the conversation open and non-confrontational: avoid accusations or labelling the student as a cheater.
  4. Allow the student to explain his/her perspective and side of the story without interruption.
  5. Educate the student about why the particular incident is academic misconduct: be specific and concrete in showing the student where the problem is.
  6. Explain how such incidents can be avoided in the future.

If you are convinced that academic misconduct has not occurred:

  1. You do not have to complete the Agreement on a Lesser Academic Offence form.
    1. Please inform Academic Advising of your decision.
    2. You can tell the student that you are not pursuing it any further.

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If you are convinced that academic misconduct has occurred:

  1. Discuss the possible penalty/sanction with the student:
    1. Depending on the situation, sometimes you can more easily gain agreement by asking the student what s/he believes is a fair penalty.
    2. You can then explain what you think is a fair penalty, and come to an agreement. Often, using this method, the student is harder on him/herself, so your penalty will be more agreeable.

Note that this is not meant to be a negotiation of the sanction, but a way to educate and allow the student to feel s/he has been treated fairly.

  1. In determining a fair sanction, please consider ‘extenuating circumstances’ such as the level and experience of the student (i.e., 1st year versus 4th year versus bridging student).
    1. Treat the meeting and sanction as an opportunity to educate the student and reinforce positive ethical behaviour.
    2. When you treat the student fairly, s/he is more likely to be compliant in future assignments. There is evidence that the more a student is engaged in his/her studies and programme, the less likely s/he is to cheat in any way.
  2. Explain the process without threatening or intimidating the student:
    1. Explain what happens if the student signs the Agreement on a Lesser Academic Offence—no notation is placed on the transcript, but a record is kept in the Registrar’s Office so if the student commits another offence the penalty will be more severe;
    2. Explain that by signing the form, the student waives the right to appeal the decision.
  3. If you and the student agree on a sanction, then you both sign the Agreement on a Lesser Offence form.If the student does not agree to sign the Agreement on a Lesser Offence, you should sign the form and send it with all the documentation and an explanation of the situation to the Dean or Chair of the Faculty Academic Integrity Committee or to the Faculty Academic Advising Office. NOTE: Reports should go to the appropriate person in the Faculty in which the misconduct occurred. Please do not bypass the Academic Advising office by submitting the form to the Registrar’s Office (RO) directly. The Academic Advising office will submit the forms to the RO.
    1. The form is then forwarded with all the supporting documentation (copy of the assignment at issue, copy of the syllabus and other supporting information, and the signed Agreement form) to the Academic Advising Office.

NOTE: All cases of Academic Misconduct must be reported, even if the offence appears to be minor. Minor offences can be given minor penalties (i.e., a warning letter or resubmission of the assignment without any grading penalty). The goal is to ensure that students understand that academic integrity is taken seriously, that the university has a culture of academic integrity and honesty, and that we have an accurate record of all offences.

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Possible Sanctions

If appropriate, choose a sanction that requires the student to learn from his/her actions rather than simply penalizing the student.

Rewrite the essay or assignment

Requiring the student to rewrite the essay or assignment is a good way to encourage students to learn from his/her mistakes. One strategy is to go over the problems with the student and then require the student to do more than simply fix the errors you’ve pointed out. You can tell the student that s/he must make the essay 100% better since you will now have to mark a second assignment from him/her. In addition, tell the student that since the paper will be their 2nd attempt, your expectations are now correspondingly higher.

Rewrite, with a set penalty

In this case, you may want to simply require the student to revise the essay with straightforward corrections (rather than a complete rewrite) and have a set penalty such as a grade reduction of 10%.

Warning

If you believe that the plagiarism or academic misconduct is “accidental” (i.e., the student really did not know that s/he was violating academic integrity rules), you may wish to simply warn the student that what they did was wrong and submit the report on a lesser offence. Even if the offence was “accidental”, we still want to keep a record of all offences.

Failure on the assignment

Assigning an F on an assignment is a significant penalty that may result in the student failing the whole course. In most cases, this type of penalty will not be appropriate for a lesser offence. However, if you are teaching an upper year course and you have clearly set out the parameters regarding expectations and rules about proper citation, research, etc., then it may be appropriate to fail the assignment. This penalty should be used rarely and with caution for a first offence.

Possible Outcomes:

  • After speaking with the student, if you feel that an act of misconduct was not committed, you can close the case and shred the form. Note that the policy is concerned with whether or not an act of misconduct was committed, not whether or not there was intent to do so.
  • If you still feel an act of misconduct was committed and the student admits guilt and accepts the penalty, then you both sign the form.  Inform the student that agreement at this stage involves waiving the right to appeal. The completed form and evidence is then sent to the Academic Advising office.
  • If you still feel an act of misconduct was committed and the student declines to accept guilt and the penalty you propose, then you check the “no resolution/agreement” box.  Only the instructor signs the form. The forms and all evidence are then sent to the Dean (or Dean’s representative – usually the Chair of the Faculty Academic Integrity Committee (FAIC)) for resolution. Do not release any grades to the student until after the case has been resolved.

Get form to report a lesser academic offence [download Word doc to your computer]

Get form to report a major (more serious) academic offence [download Word doc to your computer]

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