Graduate TA academic policy
- Reporting misconduct
- Teaching assistant misconduct policy
- Faculty and student responsibility
When academic misconduct occurs in the CS&E department, the professor should follow the university procedure (see the information from the Office for Community Standards). If the student is from the CS&E department, the misconduct should be reported to the department for possible further action.
Once the department receives an allegation of academic misconduct, it will initiate an investigation. If the misconduct resulted in a class penalty and the student chooses to appeal it, the department will typically wait until the result of the appeal is known before deciding on any TA-related penalty. However, in extreme cases, the department reserves the right to decide sooner.
Possible penalties include:
- No penalty: this should be the outcome only when the cheating allegation was erroneous, or when there was no solid evidence to support the cheating charge.
- Probation: a truly minor offense may result in probation. Probation means (i) a further offense, even a minor one, will result in a more severe penalty, (ii) the student's advisor will be notified, (iii) if the student is a current TA, the professor(s) they are TAing for will be notified, and should exercise extra oversight, (iv) the student will need to meet with the TA Supervisor to discuss the misconduct incident [Note 1: "truly minor offenses" should be truly minor. Note 2: while probation does not preclude a student from getting a future TA offer, it lessens their chances.]
- Barring the student from any future TA offers: this or the next penalty (termination of a current TA position) will be the usual penalty for incidents of academic misconduct.
- Termination of a current TA position: a current TA involved in academic misconduct may have their position terminated in accordance with the university rules at the Graduate Assistant Employment site.
The penalty should be decided by the TA Supervisor in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies. Particularly troublesome cases may be referred to the Department Head or one or more designated faculty members for resolution. Once a decision is made, the department will notify the student by letter. The letter will relate the decision, reasons for the decision, and the appeals process. A copy will be sent to the student's advisor.
A student may appeal a TA-related penalty. The initial appeal is made to the department. The student should send a signed hard copy letter to the TA Supervisor and Director of Graduate Studies explaining why the TA-related penalty should be reconsidered. This must be done within 10 days of receiving a penalty outcome letter. The TA Supervisor and Director of Graduate Studies will then reconsider the student's TA penalty. A decision on the appeal will be sent in writing to the student and a copy will be remitted to their advisor. This letter will include information about the procedure and appropriate university mechanism for further appeal, should the student wish to do so. The mechanism for further appeal will depend on the situation. In cases where the mechanism is not defined, the department will work with the student and the Office for Student Conduct and Academic Integrity to come up with a mutually agreeable mechanism.
Faculty and student responsibility
- By university policy, professors should report all cheating cases to the University's Office for Student Conduct and Academic Integrity. They may also consult with this office on any complicated misconduct situations. See the Office for Community Standards site for more information.
- Accused students often claim that what they did was not cheating, that they did not realize it was cheating, or that they did not intend to cheat. There is a faculty obligation to (i) include a section in the class syllabus about what is or is not permitted, (ii) include further details or clarifications as needed in other course information (e.g., a file on assignment policies posted to the class web page), (iii) clarify, when confusion occurs, what is and is not permitted. However, there is also a student obligation to know what is and is not normative, and to exercise good judgment and responsible behavior, and to ask when they are unsure about what is and is not permitted. This is especially true for graduate students and TAs.
- While the specifics of academic conduct may vary from class to class, all students should know the general types of academic misconduct such as plagiarism. See academic conduct information for new CS&E students for a list of, and brief comments about, some more common forms of misconduct.
- Before making an accusation of cheating, faculty should have solid evidence of misconduct.
- Many students claim extenuating circumstances as to why they cheat. It is arguable whether such circumstances should be considered when deciding a cheating penalty. A previous University report strongly recommends that "academic" circumstances (such as a student's class level) can be considered, "non-academic" ones (such as work or family issues) not be. In general, circumstances relating to that academic maturity of the student (such as their class level and previous academic training) can be considered; however, other circumstances, academic or non-academic, should not.
- Peer and community pressure and standards are one of the most, if not the most, effective ways to prevent cheating.
- U of M and department norms of academic conduct are mentioned in a number of places including:
- The summer English program for new international TAs. All international students who get a Fall TA offer as part of the admission process are required to attend this.
- The CS&E grad student orientation (all new graduate students should attend this).
- The department TA orientation.
- The TA web page (CS&E TAs are responsible for this material).
- Faculty should report all cases of cheating by computer science or computer engineering grad students to the TA Supervisor and Director of Graduate Studies. The threshold for reporting is whether a penalty (e.g., a failing grade for a class) has been assessed. The faculty member should only report the incident and what action has been taken as a result of it. They do not need to be concerned about any possible "TA-related" penalty --- that will be dealt with at the department level.
- Before deciding on any TA-related penalty, the department will usually wait until the regular cheating incident, including any student appeals, has been resolved. Following this, if the cheating accusation is upheld, the department will assign a TA penalty. This will then be communicated in writing to the student involved, as well as to their advisor.
- Possible TA penalties include "probation," which will not disqualify a student from getting a future TA offer but will lessen their chances, disqualification of getting a future TA offer, and termination of any current TA position.
- The student may appeal the TA-related penalty. The first appeal is to the department, and must done within 10 days of being sent the letter on the TA-related penalty. The decision on the appeal shall be communicated to the student, and their advisor, in writing. The student may appeal the department appeal decision. In its appeal decision letter the department will inform the student about where they may appeal further.