Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning

Kresge Library, Room 430
100 Library Drive
Rochester, Michigan 48309-4479
(location map)
(248) 370-2751
[email protected]

Student alone in a large class.

Behind the Scenes of Academic Misconduct: Patterns in Student Experience

Mon Feb 20, 2023 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” perspective of what’s really going on with students and what you can do to most effectively support students while maintaining academic integrity.

What Has Changed, and What Has Stayed the Same?

An unforeseen benefit the pandemic was a spotlight on challenges Dean of Students offices across higher education already knew such as: 

  • dismantled the misconception that students engage in academic misconduct because they are lazy, 
  • challenged the notion that high-achieving students do not engage in academic dishonesty, 
  • provided the opportunity for students to see professors as people experiencing similar challenges as them, and
  • provided an opportunity to validate how we as an institution can come together to solve a common challenge.

A current dilemma for some of our colleagues is determining to what extent the challenges brought on by the pandemic in 2020-2021 still plague our students and colleagues versus thinking that it’s time to go back to how we executed our roles pre-pandemic.

What’s Really Going on With Students: Dean of Students’ Perspective

The Academic Conduct Committee Annual reports (see all Academic Conduct Committee Annual reports) provides detailed information regarding the type of academic misconduct that takes place at Oakland University. While these data points are valuable, 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, support services to aid in the student’s overall wellbeing such as the Oakland University Counseling Center, the Graham Health Center, the Golden Grizzly Pantry, University Recreation and Well-being programs, and of course the Dean of Students office

As we discussed academic misconduct situations the patterns below continue to emerge: 

  • 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 the social, financial, medical, and academic challenges posed by the pandemic and continues to be a constant factor in students who visit or are referred to the Dean of Students office.
  • Tangential challenges lingering from the pandemic such as; decrease/lack of earnings, immediate family illness/death, student physical and mental health decline continue to impact motivation and focus.
  • Support services such as emergency fund, tutoring, change in U/S (unsatisfactory/satisfactory) impact to graduation, lack of understanding what constitutes academic misconduct.
  • There was a spectrum of understanding online resources such as essay generators, Chegg, Course Hero, Photmath, YouTube, and Google and how they are considered cheating in various forms.

What You Can Do: Review the Process, Share Available Support Services with Students

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 [email protected] 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.

About the Author

Written by Aura Cazares, Ed.D, Assistant Dean of Students at Oakland University. Dr. Cazares’ interest and passion have been to address systemic gaps that preclude student success through innovation and cultural humility.  Her 22-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 conferencing, and federal and state compliance at an urban community college. While the pandemic provided the opportunity to binge-watch the Great British Bake Off and The Mandalorian, her current hobbies includes spending time with family and friends.

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

Originally published in February 2021

View all CETL Weekly Teaching Tips