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Deal With Cheating and Plagiarism

The following may help you decide what to do when a student of yours cheats or plagiarizes.

  • Instructors may want to handle the problem "locally." However, according to the Handbook on Student Rights and Responsibilities (Code of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures, Section III, Article 48), instructors do not have the authority to impose any penalties for violations of the Code. Instructors who try to deal with academic dishonesty by imposing consequences violate McGill regulations, deny students the rights that they have in such circumstances, and may defeat their own purposes by raising the possibility of an appeal on a procedural technicality. Therefore, if you feel that an incident of cheating or plagiarism calls for disciplinary action, your only choice, under McGill's regulations, is to refer the case to the Disciplinary Officer in the student's faculty, who is usually the Associate Dean (Student Affairs). (N.B. If you are a teaching assistant, you should report the incident to the course instructor, who should report it to the disciplinary officer.)
  • Instructors may feel that they want to avoid a potential hassle. However, reporting a case of cheating often simply involves writing a letter to the appropriate disciplinary officer describing the incident and providing pertinent evidence. In rare cases when additional effort is required, we should all still be willing to stand up for academic integrity.
  • Instructors may feel sorry for a cheater. But keep in mind the students who are doing their work honestly; cheating affects them, by tilting the playing field and undermining the academic integrity of the University, which devalues the degrees we offer.
  • Instructors may assume that it is the student's first offence. But only those who have access to a student's file will know if a student is a repeat offender. Reporting cheating as prescribed by the regulations ensures that appropriate records can be kept and that repeat offenders receive the penalties that they deserve.
  • Instructors may believe that cheaters generally go unpunished even when they are reported. A minority, probably a small minority, of students legitimately accused of cheating are indeed exonerated for one reason or another. Regardless, students accused of cheating always face consequences. They face the trouble and anxiety of answering the charge in a disciplinary interview and/or hearing; and, until the final disposition of the case, they face the uncertainty of what will happen. In addition, being subject to the disciplinary process is an educational experience about the meaning of academic integrity and about possible consequences for violating the Code.