UTMSU’s academic advocacy week launched last week to address academic dishonesty at UTM.

According to U of T’s 2013/14 Annual Report on Cases of Academic Discipline, the rates of student offenders at UTM reached 347 cases that year, which was an increase of 44 compared to statistics released in the 2012/13 report. The number of repeat offenders reached 46 in 2013/14, an increase of 21 cases from 2012/13 statistics.

“Our case load has increased over the years, but so has our student population,” said Lucy Gaspini, manager of Academic Integrity and Affairs at UTM. “Plagiarism and unauthorized assistance are the most common allegations of academic offences. However, we also have cases that involve academic dishonesty or misrepresentation, forgery, impersonation, and other forms of academic offences,” she said.

According to Nour Alideeb, UTMSU’s VP university affairs and academics, students charged with an academic offence continue to seek assistance from UTMSU.

“This past summer, I personally saw at least 15 students, so I would assume that over the past two years UTMSU has helped over 500 students,” said Alideeb. “The sanctions that are imposed are severe and have long-lasting effects, but these situations are preventable with effective advocacy.”

According to Alideeb, UTMSU lobbied to have the academic student rights included in course syllabi with the help of the Academic Dean’s Office, which approved of the idea and encouraged staff and faculty to add those rights by the beginning of this semester.

“It appears that even though students know the meaning of academic integrity, many individuals find themselves being charged with an academic offence simply because we do not talk about what academic integrity looks like in everyday life,” said Alideeb. “We want students to know that with rights come responsibilities, but it is important to be informed and to act with academic integrity every day.”

Hosted by UTMSU in collaboration with the Robert Gillespie Academic Skills Centre, academic advocacy week included citation workshops educating students on ASA, APA, and MLA citation rules; information videos; and activities to help students understand of U of T policies, such as the Code on Academic Behavior and the Code of Student Conduct, in order to prevent academic offences.

Although approximately eight students showed up to each event, UTMSU plans to host similar academic integrity events to educate students on the topic.

“We hope to carry out similar events next semester and will continue to advocate for accessible academic policies as well as have discussions about what academic integrity is,” said Alideeb.