Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning

Elliott Hall, Room 200A
275 Varner Drive
Rochester, Michigan 48309-4485
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(248) 370-2751

Student alone in a large class.

Behind the Scenes of Academic Misconduct: Patterns in Student Experience

Mon Feb 8, 2021 at 07:30 AM

There are aspects of university life that we know in praxis through our roles as faculty and staff such as roles of academic affairs, student affairs, our respective roles, and how authority and scope shape decisions. We, the Dean of Students office (DOS) team, find that the latter aspects of Oakland University and “college-life” in general are not apparent and at times foreign to our students. Ironically, it was not that long ago that I had no idea what a Dean of Students was or they could have helped me in my collegiate path. 

The focus of this tip is to provide insight into the Academic Misconduct Process with a wider lens. While the Dean of Students office oversees the process and does not sanction or issue grades, our role is akin to a control tower in an airport, i.e., we do not have the authority to issue consequences but we ensure the process is followed so we do not have a punitive and inconsistent process. This role provides the “behind the scenes” tip.

At this juncture sharing how difficult 2020 was for our student is an obvious statement, however, it is important to note the specific patterns that lead to students cheating. The Fall 2019-Summer 2020 Annual Report for the Academic Conduct Committee for provides a breakdown of the 127 cases reported involving 208 individual students engaging in academic misconduct. These cases varied by type of misconduct including 28 plagiarism charges, 154 cheating charges, 66 unauthorized collaboration charges among others. The academic profiles varied by major, classification, and grade point average with the most cases involving seniors and students with 3.0-4.0 range GPAs. See all Academic Conduct Committee Annual reports

These data points are valuable, but they do not provide the qualitative data that we gather when we meet with each student to discuss the situation reported. The intake meetings we hold provide the DOS the opportunity to understand what took place and find that most of the time is spent informing students about support services they did not partake in and explaining the nuances of what constitutes cheating. We find that some students in this situation could have benefited from the Emergency Fund, Student Bereavement policy, support in their Requests for Exception, and support services to aid in the impact of COVID-19 and virtual learning prior to cheating.  

As we discussed academic misconduct situations the patterns below emerged: 

  • The pressure to retain consecutive enrollment to secure scholarships/grants led students to believe they could not take a gap or drop courses.
  • Anxiety, depression was aggravated by online learning for asynchronous courses that did not offer opportunities for student and faculty interaction.
  • Tangential challenges resulting from the pandemic such as; decrease/lack of earnings, immediate family illness/death, student physical and mental health decline impacted motivation and focus
  • Support services such as emergency fund, tutoring, change in U/S impact to graduation, lack of understanding what constitutes academic misconduct.
  • There was a spectrum of understanding online resources such as Chegg, Course Hero, Photmath, Youtube, and Google and how they are considered cheating in various forms.

Tip and Request

Ken Bain asserts, “Good explanations come from people who realize that learners must construct knowledge rather than simply absorb it” (Bain, 2014, p. 126). Understanding that students, staff, and faculty, learn differently and are in different stages of their lives, the DOS team developed the following tools and is taking the following actions to create a multi-facet approach to engage and educate about the Academic Misconduct process and our overall role. 

Academic Misconduct

Support Services Dissemination 

Our request is that you reach out to us when you have questions and refer students to our office. We can continue to learn from each other and identify opportunities to help students succeed. We are an email away at or call 248-370-3352.

Save and adapt a Google Doc version of this teaching tip.


Academic Misconduct Procedures and Considerations for Faculty provides OU faculty an overview of possible strategies and actions when there is reason to believe cheating or other forms of academic misconduct have taken place. For this and more resources related to academic integrity, see CETL’s Academic Integrity Resources.

Written by Aura Cazares, Assistant Dean of Students at Oakland University. Ms. Cazares’ interest and passion have been to address systemic gaps that preclude student success through innovation and cultural humility.  Her 20-year tenure in higher education includes employing Spanish fluency and analytical skills to lead strategic enrollment for a Catholic Jesuit University and a Hispanic Serving Institution. She led risk management, Title IX, student conduct, restorative justice, federal and state compliance at an urban community college. The pandemic provided the opportunity to binge-watch The Great British Bake Off and The Mandalorian.

Image by Oakland University. Others may share and adapt under Creative Commons License CC BY-NC.

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