Academic Integrity Sanctioning Guidelines Updated to Focus on “Educational Opportunities”

The guidelines for dealing with academic integrity violations at UC San Diego were updated late last month in an effort to improve transparency in the decision-making process regarding violations.

The new administrative sanctioning guidelines, which are updated every few years, establish a point system for evaluating academic integrity violations, clarify the criteria used to make judgments, and distinguish “disciplinary actions” from “educational opportunities” like academic integrity training.  

Tricia Bertram Gallant, the Director of the Academic Integrity Office, believes that this new point system will help demystify administration actions and make the decision-making process more transparent, providing “an objective baseline for determining disciplinary actions.”

The previous version of the guidelines had two criteria: type of violation and category of violation. The updated guidelines have five: violation history, type of violation, student time at UCSD, value of assessment, and additional considerations. Students that are found to have violated academic integrity will be charged an administrative fee of $50 and will have to accept whatever training or disciplinary actions prescribed by administrators.

“In these new guidelines, students can clearly see that we do want to teach them the skills to be academically successful with integrity,” said Gallant. “But we also want to teach them that integrity violations will not be tolerated in our community or in many professional communities they will enter as graduates.”

Uma Mahto, who has served as an undergraduate representative on the Academic Integrity Review Board (AIRB) since 2016, believes that the new guideline updates will help students more clearly understand what sanctions they will face if they are found responsible, but is concerned that students are not given enough information on what constitutes a violation when starting at the University.  

“There are many ideological and cultural differences when it comes to people’s definition of cheating or [an] academic integrity violation,” Mahto said. “What an academic integrity violation is along with consequences at the university differ vastly from what incoming students may have experienced in high school.”

Mahto is concerned that a student might be found responsible for violating academic integrity when they thought they were receiving help and that it was okay for them to do so.

“Professors and TAs are ultimately responsible for conveying what is appropriate and [what is] not in their class,” she said.

In 2016, former student Jonathan Dorfman won a lawsuit after being expelled from the University for allegedly cheating on a chemistry midterm in 2011. Dorfman lost his case with the Academic Integrity Review Board and appealed it on the basis that the Academic Integrity Coordinator was assisting the Professor accusing him of cheating. He pursued his case for five years in the California Court of Appeals before it was resolved in his favor, allowing him to return to school.

“The AIRB process aims to be as objective as possible,” Mahto said, “but it can be increasingly hard to do so if and when it becomes a case of he said/she said/they said.”

Gabe Schneider is the News Editor for The Triton.