Academic integrity violations at the University of Pennsylvania witnessed a staggering seven-fold increase during the last school year, with unauthorized use of ChatGPT playing a significant role in this surge. This revelation comes from an analysis of the Penn Center for Community Standards and Accountability’s annual disciplinary report for the 2022-2023 academic year. While these specific violations spiked, the overall number of academic integrity and student conduct violations showed a decrease compared to previous school years.
Academic integrity violations took center stage in the disciplinary landscape at the University of Pennsylvania during the 2022-2023 academic year. A meticulous examination of the Penn Center for Community Standards and Accountability’s (CSA) annual disciplinary report revealed that violations related to attaining an “unfair advantage over fellow students” increased seven-fold. This alarming rise can be partly attributed to the unauthorized use of ChatGPT, among other factors.
Shift in academic integrity violations
Despite the surge in academic integrity violations, there has been an encouraging decline in both academic integrity and student conduct violations, reflecting an evolving disciplinary environment at Penn. Comparing the 2022-2023 academic year to the preceding one, The Daily Pennsylvanian (DP) found a commendable 16% reduction in total violations. This trend aligns with a broader pattern over the past few years, marking a 55% decline in Code of Academic Integrity violations and a 54% decrease in Code of Student Conduct violations since the peak in 2020-21, which was exacerbated by cheating and pandemic-related infractions.
While academic integrity violations have returned to pre-pandemic levels with 209 cases during the 2022-2023 school year, student conduct violations remain elevated, totaling 241 violations. This figure is approximately 1.5 times higher than the pre-pandemic 2018-19 academic year, which had 166 student conduct violations. The data suggests an evolving landscape in which academic integrity is being prioritized, but student conduct violations continue to present challenges.
Within the realm of academic integrity violations, cheating and attaining an “unfair advantage over fellow students” emerged as the most common transgressions during the 2022-2023 academic year. Although cheating cases witnessed a 33% decrease compared to the previous year, CSA recorded a notable uptick in allegations related to attaining an “unfair advantage.” These cases surged from a mere seven violations in the previous year to a concerning 53 violations during the 2022-2023 academic year.
Broad spectrum of “unfair advantage” cases
Julie Nettleton, the director of CSA, shed light on the multifaceted nature of “unfair advantage” allegations, stating that they encompass a wide array of scenarios. These range from unauthorized access to computer science and nursing homework to gaining unauthorized access to others’ papers and employing tools like ChatGPT or Chegg. Nettleton also noted that some cases involved fabricating the need for extensions or accessing other students’ computers for homework answers or responses. Notably, a single disciplinary incident could fall under multiple categories in the report, blurring the lines between different types of violations.
The disciplinary report for the 2022-2023 academic year not only highlights changes in academic integrity violations but also underscores a shift in student conduct violations at Penn. Unlike the previous three years, the most common violations diverged from the expected pattern. Traditionally, these years saw alcohol violations, hazing, sexual violence, and disorderly conduct taking the lead in terms of student conduct violations.
Pablo Miguel Cerdera, the associate director of Restorative Practices @ Penn, a CSA branch focusing on restorative practices for managing student violations, suggested that the increase in violation counts might be attributed to group events where multiple cases arise. One such instance was the substantial number of disciplinary cases following Fossil Free Penn’s Convocation protest in August 2022. But, Nettleton declined to comment on any specific cases.
Prioritizing accountability and healing
Of the 450 student conduct and academic integrity violations documented during the 2022-2023 academic year, 154 were resolved through Restorative Practices @ Penn. The CSA employs various resolution modes for these violations, with signed agreements and restorative practices emerging as the most common methods. Restorative practices, in particular, saw a significant increase, rising by 16% compared to the previous year.
Julie Nettleton emphasized that the intentional increase in the use of restorative practices began in the 2019-2020 academic year, leading to the establishment of Restorative Practices @ Penn in 2020. This branch oversees restorative practice efforts at the university, aligning with the goal of creating a disciplinary system that prioritizes accountability, healing, and potential learning outcomes.
Restorative justice, as explained by Cerdera, deviates from punitive measures and instead involves bringing all consenting parties together to determine appropriate outcomes that can aid students in becoming more successful moving forward. While Restorative Practices @ Penn primarily handles Code of Student Conduct violations, it collaborates with various campus partners and the Center of Community Standards and Accountability to promote a restorative mindset across campus.