Deciphering the Factors: Faculty Discretion in Academic Misconduct Referrals

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College campuses face widespread academic misconduct, with rates as high as 80-95%, but only 3-9% of cases are reported (Cochran 2017; Hard, Conway, Moran 2006; McCabe 2005; Vandehey, Diekhokk, LaBeff 2007). Examples include cheating during exams, collaborative assignments meant to be individual, and improper use of online sources. At the University of Maryland, common sanctions for academic misconduct include a 12-month "XF," and suspension or expulsion is possible for repeated or severe offenses. Despite university administrations implementing honor codes, such as the Code of Academic Integrity at the University of Maryland, academic misconduct persists. These codes outline policies, expectations, and disciplinary processes, with faculty required to report suspicions. Despite severe sanctions like course failure, suspension, and expulsion, students continue to cheat, and faculty are reluctant to report their suspicions of misconduct. The persistence of academic misconduct despite these measures raises questions about the motivations behind student behavior and the responses of faculty and administrations (Waltzer, Samuelson, Dahl 2022). Existing research underscores the crucial role of faculty in deterring cheating, with inconsistent responses to misconduct by faculty fostering a culture of dishonesty that further encourages misconduct. This research aims to address the inconsistency in formal referrals of students suspected of academic misconduct by faculty. Faculty discretion leads to unequal treatment, impacting the likelihood of students being caught for cheating and facing sanctions like suspension or expulsion. A comprehensive understanding of factors influencing faculty decisions to refer and identifying a profile of likely referrers would enhance the fairness and equity of the student judicial process.