Is this cheating?

The academic integrity honor pledge at CSU sounds simple enough: “I will not give, receive, or use any unauthorized assistance on academic work.”

If only its interpretation were that easy.


“The Honor Pledge by itself has lowered cheating at other schools,” said Elaine Green, director of academic integrity for The Institute for Learning and Teaching (TILT) at CSU. “It affects the student culture.”

To reinforce the importance of this pledge, Green, Conflict Resolution and Student Conduct Services and student government have organized “Academic Integrity Week, which begins today.

Over the course of the week, the organizations will host six events geared toward helping students avoid unintentional plagiarism. The events include writing theses ethically and avoiding academic dishonesty in foreign language classes.

Sophomore equine major Allyx Moose had a run-in with the Conflict Resolution and Student Conduct Services (CRSCS) when she took an online test last year. The test was supposed to be closed-note, but she decided to take it at the same time as many of her classmates.

“They told us they believed we had cheated off each other,” Moose said. “Because we took it at the same time, they assumed we took it together, that we had talked to each other during the test.”

When instructors suspect academic misconduct, their next step is to follow specific university policy. First, they must meet with the student by making an appointment to discuss the concern, where the student has an opportunity to give his or her position on the matter.

Second, the instructor has two options: they can ask that CRSCS determine responsibility for alleged academic misconduct on behalf of CSU, or they can impose a grading penalty based on the meeting with the student. These penalties can be a reduced grade, assigning a failing grade, removing a repeat/delete option for that course or lesser penalty as deemed appropriate by the instructor.

Instructors are enabled to take action, but so are students.

At any time during the academic misconduct process, a student can request a university hearing. If the student is not found responsible at the hearing, the instructor will assess the work without academic penalty. This was the case with Moose.

“It definitely made me more wary of it now,” Moose said. “I understand why they thought it was cheating. It made me aware.”


Beyond the situation that Moose encountered, there are many other gray areas to academic integrity.

Self-plagiarism, or “recycling,” is often a form of cheating that many students have misconceptions about. The term refers to taking work from another class and submitting it to another class. Green says that the purpose of assignments is to create, not recycle.

“My advice to students is to talk to your professor about how you can develop it further,” Green said.

Another common form of plagiarism is referred to as “patchwork plagiarism” or “the mash-up.” It’s when students over-paraphrase.

“The whole idea is to help students understand the nuances of plagiarism at a collegiate level,” Green said. “The goal is to establish the understanding that your obligation as a student is to not accept unauthorized assistance.”

Collegian Writer Candice Miller can be reached at