Andrew Szeri
In conversation with some graduate students recently, they encouraged me to address an important if unpleasant subject: academic misconduct — cheating, plagiarism, fabrication, facilitation of academic dishonesty, misrepresentation in records, etc. (Some categories and examples are discussed online.) My hope is that, by raising these issues, any questions in these areas you may encounter will be addressed in appropriate ways.

For students taking classes, the rules around cheating and plagiarism are clear: the work you submit and portray as your own must be your own. Work done by others and incorporated into your work must be clearly attributed to the others.

If you are engaged in teaching, the section on Preventing Academic Misconduct in the Teaching Guide for GSIs discusses the causes of academic dishonesty, teaching strategies you can use to prevent it, and what to do if it occurs. One of your colleagues, Catherine Cronquist Browning, a GSI in English, received a Teaching Effectiveness Award for a thoughtful activity she designed to prevent plagiarism. You can read her essay on the GSI Teaching and Resource Center website.

For graduate students engaged in research, a particular level of care needs to be exercised. Because research is about the creation of new knowledge, a special premium is placed on the origination of ideas. Some students feel uncertain about their ability to generate new ideas, and others feel insecure about their ability to convey information through academic writing. There may be a temptation to “borrow” ideas or writing from others, but that is simply not OK. Useful ways to address such insecurities would be to discuss concerns with one’s research advisor, or to take a seminar or workshop on academic writing, or to turn to more senior graduate students for advice.

Academic dishonesty in research often triggers external consequences. Students typically have research collaborators who depend on one another’s results to advance their own work. Students might be supported on a research grant, and falsified results could jeopardize the support for other students or the faculty with whom they work.

Many don’t realize that the Student Code of Conduct, which covers academic dishonesty among other things, applies to graduate students as well as to undergraduates. For your own career as a student — and beyond — honesty is foundational. In my time as Graduate Dean, I have had the rare but supremely unpleasant experience of rescinding a Berkeley graduate student’s PhD and Master’s degrees when plagiarism was uncovered.

The misdeeds of a few should never overshadow the fairly earned accomplishments of Berkeley students of impeccable principles. As you complete your coursework and exams or conclude your teaching assignment for the semester, I hope you will take well-deserved pride in your hard work. And please take full advantage of the break to rest and refresh — you owe it to yourself, and your studies will benefit.


Andrew J. Szeri

Andrew J. Szeri
Dean of the Graduate Division

Categories: Featured in eGrad: December 2010, Message from the Dean