There were 122 misconduct cases in 2020/21, almost double five-year average: UBC report

Instances of academic misconduct increased while cases of non-academic misconduct remained about the same in 2020/21, according to a new UBC report.

The annual Student Discipline report records each instance of academic and non-academic misconduct within a given academic year. The 2020/21 report found a total of 122 cases across both of UBC’s campuses between September 1, 2020 and August 31, 2021 — almost double the average number of cases reported within the last five years.

Following our review of the number of academic misconduct cases across the past five years last spring, The Ubyssey broke down this year’s report and what might explain the increase in cases.

Academic misconduct cases increased

For this article, academic misconduct cases were sorted into four categories: cheating, plagiarizing, impersonation, and falsifying documents. These categories are based on the formal definitions given by UBC.

Much like previous years, plagiarism continues to be the most reported type of academic misconduct with 45 cases at UBC Vancouver (UBC-V) and 5 at UBC Okanagan (UBC-O). This includes using source material online without giving credit. There were 23 and 2 at UBC-V and UBC-O respectively in 2019/20.

The MATH 100 cheating scandal in November 2020 could explain the increase in the number of plagiarism cases, but the other categories also saw an increase meaning this situation is likely not solely responsible for the overall increase of cases.

Cheating was the second most frequent instance of academic misconduct, with 43 cases and 4 cases at UBC-V and UBC-O respectively. In 2019/20, there were 16 cases at UBC-V and 1 and UBC-O.

Impersonation — when someone else completes an exam or coursework on another student’s behalf — was the third most common form of academic misconduct, although the number of cases in 2020/21 rose significantly from previous years. Last year, UBC Vancouver reported 14 cases of impersonation, compared to only 1 in 2019/20. UBC Okanagan reported no cases both years.

There were only two case of falsifying documents across both campuses, which both occurred at UBC Vancouver. Last year, UBC-V reported two cases and UBC-O one.

In an emailed statement to The Ubyssey, Associate Provost Dr. Simon Bates said the increase in academic misconduct cases “is largely attributable to the shift to primarily online assessment methods for many courses during COVID-19.”

He acknowledged the challenges associated with online learning, including the rapid shift to this new format in spring 2020.

Bates said UBC was confident the number of cases moving forward would significantly reduce with classes back in person.

“Both campuses have invested significant effort in enhancing educative approaches to academic integrity, to support students in clearly understanding expectations around assessment integrity in courses,” he added.

Non-academic misconduct cases stayed about the same

While the number of academic misconduct cases increased significantly this year, instances of non-academic misconduct remained relatively the same.

Non-academic misconduct refers to any violation of UBC policies like Student Code of Conduct or Policy SC-17 on sexual misconduct. UBC-V reported a total of six non-academic misconduct cases, while UBC-V reported three.

Specifically, there were four cases under Policy SC-17 at UBC- V and three at UBC-O. Last year there was only three cases across both campuses at UBC-V. Meanwhile, there were two cases at UBC-V and none at UBC-O that fell under the Student Code of Conduct. In 2019/20, there was one case at UBC-V and two at UBC-O.