Recently, I was reading a dissertation, “Cheating from a Distance: An Examination of Academic Dishonesty Among University Students,” by Timothy K. Daty from the University of New Haven. While interesting for multiple reasons, including its analysis of online vs. in-person cheating in a post-Covid-19 world, I kept coming back to one quote: “A student’s academic record can also impact student disciplinary hearings. More precisely, a student’s grade point average can have a pronounced influence on university sanctioning. When undergoing formal hearings concerning alleged academic dishonesty, students with lower academic achievement appear to have a higher incidence of guilty verdicts” (Larwood & Rankin, 2010 cited by Daty, 2021, p. 35). Like any good scholar, I hunted down the reference.

Larwood and Rankin (2010) ran a probit analysis of 93 honor code cases over three years. They did find that students with lower GPA’s had a higher probability of being found guilty and other worrisome trends. While I wish the article was longer in order to read through the methods and more detailed findings, this finding is disturbing because we know that ‘good’ students cheat, too.

‘Good’ students cheat to get into competitive programs, because there is intense pressure from supporters to be successful. They may also cheat because they want to help their friends, their peers are already cheating, they have moral dissonance, and the list goes on. But if ‘good’ students also cheat, they must still be held accountable.

In fact, letting some students get away with cheating because they are ‘good students’ goes against the Fundamental Values of Academic Integrity. Honesty requires that those reviewing cases of alleged cheating “consider all sides.” Trust is only developed when students believe their cases are treated with consistent standards, and this fairness is only developed with the rules are applied consistently. We respect others when we show equal justice and hold all students to be responsible for their behavior.

Here are some ways to make sure you are following the fundamental values:


Report any student you suspect of cheating to the appropriate office. Do not try to handle it in-house just because the student is “really a good kid.” If you would report a student with a poor grade in your course, make sure you’re applying your standard consistently to the student with a good grade.

Make your sanctioning equitable. If you have flexible sanctioning, do not give a harsher sanction just because a student is doing poorly. Make sure your sanction is equal to the actions of the student, not to how you personally feel about the student.

Take a breath before meeting with the student or attending a hearing. It may feel personal when a student cheats, but it is likely not. It may feel especially personal when you have offered every opportunity for a student to improve in your course, but they cheat instead. Before you punish a student, listen with compassion to what they did and why they did it.

Academic Integrity Staff

Be transparent. Provide reports of cheating at your institutions that show sanctions. Students often see expulsion or exclusion in a policy and think that will automatically be the case for them. When students are aware of what is a fair sanction based on the course and the assignment, they can better advocate for themselves.

Work with students. This sounds simple, and I am sure some of you might be rolling your eyes. Maybe you are feeling cynical after you regular increase in caseloads from final exams; I know that pessimism can be challenging to shake. But listen to the issue the faculty is having and listen to the response from the student. If your job is to judge whether or not a student is guilty, you have to be an impartial judge. If your job is to sanction students that have cheated, then you are the one responsible for ensure fair sanctions are applied to all students. And if you are the one facilitating the process for faculty and students, then you have to work to build back that broken trust.   


If you serve on a student conduct hearing board, you have a unique responsibility to your institution. Not only should you have the courage to model appropriate and integrity-based behavior, but you also have a duty to treat your peers with respect and fairness, regardless of the grades they may have received. 

As you plan for this semester, how are you going to uphold the Fundamental Values? Tweet @TweetCAI to share your strategies.