Consequences of Plagiarism for the Student

In this section, our expert discusses some procedures that are specific to the University of Michigan; however, the thinking behind these policies is consistent across many colleges and universities.

What can a student expect when she is referred to the Dean’s Office for an academic integrity issue?

Expert perspective: Esrold Nurse has been Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Education the College of Literature, Science, and Arts since 1995.  In this capacity, he works with the Office of Student Academic Affairs and is Executive Director of the Newnan LSA Academic Advising Center.


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A student can expect that we will be very clear about whatever the allegation is. We try to frame the context within which the conversation is taking place. It’s more like due process, we want students to

feel comfortably in our meeting. They are our students, so we don’t see them as a villain, or someone who has committed a crime of any type. So, we really want to focus on their understanding

of the problem, and we want to get at the truth. So, the key is about how we frame the context within which the student acted in the way he did. So, we want to be very kind to the student. We want to

sort of recognize that all students, you know, make mistakes. So, if this is a mistake, we want to be sure the student’s learned from it, and be less concerned about being punitive –we really want it to be

educational –recognizing that students learn, not just in the classroom, but outside of the classroom as well, and that this could be a learning experience.

I write letters on behalf of students, even when they’re applying to medical school. Debbie and I were just talking about such a case, in which, you know, someone, you know, regrets having done what he

did, and now he’s trying to get into med school, and you know, if someone has, you know, made a mistake and has accepted the responsibility and the consequence, you know, then we can move on

and say look this is– this is only intended for this purpose. It’s not intended to follow you for the rest of your life. We want you to learn from it, so when an action is taken, and we take some sanction, it’s

over, as far as we’re concerned, but it does have a residual effect because when you apply to graduate schools, they do ask you, you know, whether you’ve been, you know, whether you’ve

cheated or things like that, so, it could be a problem.

Key Takeaways:

  • The conversation begins with fact-finding: getting at the truth
  • The Dean’s Office is less concerned with being punitive and more concerned with teaching students about the importance of academic integrity

Detailed information about University of Michigan LSA-specific academic integrity procedures is available here: http://www.lsa.umich.edu/academicintegrity/procedures/index.html

What can students learn from their infractions?

Expert perspective: Esrold Nurse has been Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Education the College of Literature, Science, and Arts since 1995.  In this capacity, he works with the Office of Student Academic Affairs and is Executive Director of the Newnan LSA Academic Advising Center.


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We have a range of infractions, it could be very severe, it could be very minor infractions. It’s all about the student, and as I said, if a student has made a mistake, we want them to sort of accept

responsibility. I think that’s the first step in sort of recovering from it. We want them to learn from it, because we think to the extent they learn from the mistake, they’re less likely to make it again.

So, we want students to reflect quite a bit on what conditions may have existed and resulted in them taking the actions that they did, which in many cases, they understand that they were wrong.

So, for example, students will say to me, “You know, I was pressed for time, and I wanted to get a good grade, and I didn’t pay much attention to my citations, that I normally do.” And, you know, we

talk about that. And, you know, we point out that in life, whether you’re working professionally or elsewhere, you’re going to be always stretched for time, and you know, cutting corners is not a good

thing to do, because it could result– it could result in losing a job. You know, you could be fired for not, you know, following the directions that your boss has given you. So we try to put it in that broad

of perspective, so that they can understand, but that’s part of the conversation that we have, which we view as an educational approach, because we really want them to sort of understand, you know,

they’re own behavior, because we’re not, you know, following them around to sort of know when they’re acting inappropriately or not. We want them to sort of internalize their own actions, and what

conditions existed to cause them to act in the way they did, and then understanding that, I think they become better adapted to sort of not do this again. One of the things that we do as a sanction is to

write a reflective essay, and this should talk about integrity, and what it means to them, and how they’re going to act with integrity from now on.

Key Takeaways:

  • Students need to accept responsibility
  • Identifying the conditions that led them to take the actions they did will help students avoid repeat infractions
  • While academic integrity violations may be treated as learning experiences at a university, the real world might not be so forgiving
  • Learn best practices for integrity now

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