Cheating in college bears serious consequences: Dean Ed Strong explains how RWU addresses plagiarism, cheating

Rachel Dvareckas, Herald Contributor

Many students have been faced with an assignment they have been tempted to cheat on in order to get it done quickly and get the best grade possible. Cheating and breaking academic integrity is a major offense at RWU and can lead to very serious consequences. The Academic Conduct Committee, chaired by Dean Ed Strong, oversees student appeals of breaches of academic integrity. The committee hears about eight to twelve cases each year.

“In about half the cases, the student accepts that they did commit a breach of academic integrity but they want a chance to ‘clear the air’ surrounding the situation, in some cases to make an apology to a broader audience, which is, I think, an indication that Roger Williams professors are pretty diligent about making charges that are based on real rather than imagined breaches,” Strong said.

Faculty members are responsible for beginning the process of dealing with alleged breaches of academic integrity. They investigate and find evidence before either giving the student a warning, failing the student on the assignment or failing the student out of the course. All information is sent to the Dean, who then determines if the student has a right to appeal. Recurring cases may result in being suspended from the university or expulsion. 

Professors are often the first to recognize any kind of breach in academic integrity, so they tend to try to prevent anyone from doing so. Dr. Kamille Gentles-Peart, an associate professor of communications and media studies, designs her assessments to make it difficult to cheat. She finds students tend to plagiarize on papers and she tries to prevent this by using VeriCite and having students submit their papers through Bridges. In her twelve years of teaching at RWU, she has only had two instances of plagiarizing.

The duty of professors to catch cheating has become increasingly harder in the age of the internet. There are sites online that will write an assignment for a student for a fee. Professors do not know when papers have been purchased because the work is original — it was just not written by the student who passes it in. 

Dr. Gentles-Peart encourages her students to take ownership and responsibility for their own learning. She focuses her assessments on how well students can articulate and demonstrate what they learned in class. 

“That’s what I think might need work,” Strong said. “Getting people to care enough about ideas to know and to follow the rules about using other peoples’ intellectual property.”