8 October 2007
OK, commenters, you win. My proposal for extending the punishment for academic dishonesty is probably too draconian fascist much like walking the plank strict. Even if I fixed the “five-game suspension” problem for athletes, I admit most students caught in academic dishonesty aren’t cold-blooded cheaters but basically good people who are naive to the ways of college and have gotten themselves talked into thinking that cheating is acceptable if one can sort of morally justify it. And as such, they don’t need the full force of the sanctions that I proposed to get the lesson across.
But at least at my college, the professor reserves the right to suggest withholding parts of the standard penalty for academic dishonesty. While I always report academic dishonesty to the Dean, and while I have done so at least once a semester ever since I started working here, in fact I have almost never recommended the full punishment. So even if the range of punishments allowed were expanded drastically, like I proposed, a professor could hold back whatever portions s/he chose while retaining the right to drop a bomb on somebody who was violating academic honesty blatantly and without remorse. So I’m not sure why raising the upper end of what punishment can be meted out should be such a bad thing.
But regardless, I still think that punishing academic dishonesty at the level of grades only is barking up the wrong tree. Students get into academic dishonesty — cold-blooded or otherwise — by thinking that cheating is what’s best for their grade right now. It’s all about the grade. The punishment needs to communicate unambiguously that academic honesty is not all about the grade but about defending the basic foundation of college, which is mutual trust. You violate that trust, you dismember the community, and you should receive some temporary but substantive time-out from being a part of that community.
If it hurts or takes away something that’s important to the student, then so be it — cheating takes away something that is important to the college, and to me.