Simon Fraser to flag academic dishonesty on transcripts

Repeat plagiarists and cheaters would get an "FD" grade, could lose their degree

The senate and board of governors of Simon Fraser University say they have approved “significant and extensive” changes to the school’s policies concerning dishonesty and student misconduct.

Included in the changes is a new mark – FD – which will indicate that a student was failed for reasons of academic dishonesty. This means that a plagiarized essay or serious case of cheating could follow students around throughout the rest of their academic careers.

“The FD grade will be available to department chairs who feel that a student’s behavior warrants a severe penalty, usually because they are repeat violators,” says Rob Gordon, director of the school’s criminology department. “A chair may also request the imposition of more severe penalties through the University Board on Student Discipline such as suspension and the rescinding of a degree.”

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The changes were the result of a university-wide, three-year investigation by Simon Fraser’s senate committee on academic integrity in student learning and evaluation, otherwise known as SCAISLE. The committee was struck in fall 2005 after a series of incidents concerning academic dishonesty were identified, and the school commissioned a report.

That report found that 63 per cent of faculty and 41 per cent of teaching assistants and tutor markers surveyed at Simon Fraser had ignored suspected cases of cheating. This included cases of falsifying lab data, “recycling” of labs, fabrication of bibliographies, extensive plagiarism in papers, homework copying, illegal group work, and copying on exams.

Calling the policy “a zero-tolerance approach both in theory and in practice,” Gordon says the school aimed to create a fair, consistent and effective new policy on matter concerning academic integrity. “We believe the combination of policies, procedures and strategies we’ve come up with will do that.”

As of May 1, the new policy includes a “Code of Academic Integrity and Good Conduct,” which includes a summary of expectations for students around issues of academic honesty and personal behaviour. This includes prohibitions against hazing, bullying, disclosing confidential information and possessing guns on campus.

“We now have a single student code of conduct that covers both academic integrity and good-conduct issues,” says Gordon. “And we’ve created a reporting system with a central record keeping mechanism so we can better detect multiple offenders across campuses and departments.”