UC Berkeley administrators reflect on remote academic dishonesty

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UC Berkeley staff discuss how to combat online academic dishonesty after seeing a rise during remote instruction.

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As UC Berkeley returns to in-person instruction, campus administrators reflected on how remote learning has impacted students and staff in terms of academic dishonesty.

Becca Lopez, director of the Center for Student Conduct, or CSC, said colleges and universities around the nation, including the Berkeley campus, have experienced increases in academic dishonesty since remote instruction began. 

“The number of academic misconduct reports submitted to the Center for Student Conduct in the Fall of 2020 was about 230% higher than the previous Fall 2019 semester,” Lopez said in an email.

This data reflects the total number of allegations issued, not just those resulting in adjudicated cases, according to Lopez.

Lopez outlined the general process for investigating accusations of academic dishonesty. Professors first contact students they believe to have perpetrated misconduct with a Faculty Disposition Form. Students then have two options: Accept responsibility by signing the form or respond to the allegation through the CSC.

There are three ways that a student can respond to the allegation, according to the CSC. The first is to accept responsibility and agree to a resolution plan, which closes the case. The second is to request an informal resolution, whereby a Conduct Coordinator will meet with the student for further discussions. If the student does not take responsibility for misconduct and refuses the second option, the third choice is to request a panel or administrative hearing.

Lopez said the CSC recognizes the struggles students may be facing.

“It may be helpful to note that typically a first time, low-level undergraduate academic misconduct violation would result in a non-reportable warning and an educational sanction,” Lopez said in an email. “Each case is different and students are encouraged to engage in the process, which helps the CSC and the student collaborate on a resolution to their unique situation.”

Next semester, remote classes will typically have remote examinations and in-person classes will have in-person examinations, according to campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore.

Despite the increase in academic dishonesty, campus administrators are hopeful that the return to in-person instruction will decrease the number of misconduct cases and decrease proctoring stress.

To help GSIs transition to online proctoring, the Graduate Division provided recommendations before fall 2020 to address concerns. Instructors should be clear about how many hours GSIs should be working. The recommendation noted that GSIs cannot be expected to work more than what is established on their contract.

Linda von Hoene, assistant dean for professional development and director of the GSI Teaching and Resource Center, said hundreds of GSIs attended a Graduate Remote Instruction Innovation Fellows Program prior to both the fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters.

“GSIs were and are indispensable to the success of remote teaching and learning,” von Hoene said in an email. “Not only did they teach highly interactive class sessions; they also assisted faculty in revising courses for the remote environment. Perhaps most importantly, GSIs were extraordinarily attentive and responsive to the needs of their students.”

Contact Christopher Ying at [email protected], and follow him on Twitter at @ChrisYingg.