The decision to report an incident of cheating or plagiarism may not be an easy one. While it may be difficult to be the one to turn in another student for dishonest behaviour, it is important to understand that by cheating, a student artificially or fraudulently inflates his or her own grades and at the same time artificially deflates other students’ grades. Although the University of Alberta does not require students to report academic dishonesty when they see it, we do rely on the entire university community to uphold academic integrity and it is in your best interest to do so. Often that means bringing infractions to the attention of a university official.
Here are some things you should know about reporting violations of the Code of Student Behaviour:
- Tell the right person – If you witness cheating or are aware of plagiarism in a course, it is important to notify the professor who has the responsibility for dealing with the issue. If you know of a student falsifying lab results, the professor in charge of the lab or the lab coordinator should be informed. If you witness violations of the COSB that are not related to academic work, call Protective Services at 492-5050.
- Keep the information private – Unless an allegation has been properly investigated, it is nothing but speculation. Do not discuss the issue with other students. Gossip can be very damaging to a student’s reputation and creates a hostile atmosphere for everyone. If you need to vent your frustration or discuss the situation with someone, the Student OmbudService (492-4689) can assist you in understanding the process and your role in it.
- Confidentiality – The University of Alberta is bound by the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIPP) Act. The requirement to protect students’ privacy is taken seriously, both when they report incidents of academic dishonesty and when they are accused of violating the COSB. We are obligated to disclose the information a student needs in order to respond to charges, but no more than is necessary.
- Anonymous reports – There is a constant tension in COSB cases between protecting confidentiality and ensuring full disclosure of the allegations against an accused student. Because accused students have the right to know the case against them (including the identity of the person making the allegations) we cannot accept anonymous reports, no matter how detailed or plausible they might be. It may be possible to find corroborating evidence but, in general, anonymous reports do not lead to COSB charges.
- Outcome of investigations – Under the FOIPP Act, students who report incidents of academic dishonesty are not entitled to know the outcome. Although this may be frustrating, you can be assured that the University takes the information seriously and follows up on complaints. If there is insufficient evidence to charge someone under the COSB, we will take steps to prevent that kind of activity from happening again. No matter what the result of the case is, you affect positive change and contribute to an overall environment of academic integrity when you report academic dishonesty.