Plagiarism cases down while sexual misconduct rises: Breaking down UBC’s 2021/22 misconduct report

Cases of plagiarism plummeted while sexual misconduct charges tripled by three times at UBC Vancouver (UBCV) in the 2021/22 Student Discipline report.

The annual report breaks down all instances of academic and non-academic misconduct from the previous year. The 2021/22 report saw a total of 98 cases that appeared before the President’s Advisory Committee on Student Discipline or Non-Academic Misconduct Committee, as well as those investigated under violation of UBC's sexual misconduct policy, Policy SC17. This is a decrease from the previous year’s total of 122 cases.

This report categorizes cases into counts of plagiarism, cheating, document falsification and impersonation per UBC’s official definitions.

Plagiarism cases down, but ChatGPT raises new concerns

The 2020/21 report saw 45 cases of plagiarism at UBCV. This year, that number decreased more than twofold to 19. UBC Okanagan’s (UBCO) cases of plagiarism remained the same with both years seeing only five cases. Plagiarism refers to any academic misconduct in which someone else’s ideas and work are used as someone’s own without explicating the proper due credit.

Because these numbers reflect the previous 2021/22 academic term, the breakdown does not factor in the influence of ChatGPT on academic authenticity since its inception during the last winter semester.

“[AI] are all rapidly improving in terms of what they can do and so I think what's really important is for faculty and students to have conversations in their classes about what these tools can do, and in fact, what they cannot do,” said Dr. Christina Hendricks, Vice Provost and Associate Vice President Teaching and Learning.

“It's really important for faculty to be really clear in classes about what is allowed and what is not allowed and why and … how that is supporting students in their learning.”

Hendricks explained that as AI technologies such as ChatGPT become more widely accessible, UBC will take on an educative approach to promote shared understanding between faculty and students regarding how to appropriately use these innovations.

“[UBC is] not looking to try to ban AI technologies. Number one, I don't think it's feasible. And number two, I don't think it's useful,” said Hendricks. “It's important for students to have access to learn about, discuss and understand how to appropriately use these kinds of tools because I would imagine they're likely to use these after they leave the institution in their careers or even while they're still here in their jobs.”

AI-generative platforms such as ChatGPT can also be expected to influence counts of cheating. Cheating refers to providing or utilizing unauthorized methods or information to gain academic credit using dishonest means. Instances of cheating increased only slightly from last year’s count of 43 to 45 at UBCV. At UBCO, the number of cheating cases decreased from four to just one.

Cases of document falsification— providing false or incomplete documentation— increased last year from two to seven at UBCV and from no reported instances to one at UBCO. Most of these cases were observed amongst prospective students applying to UBC graduate programs.

Impersonation was the least reported form of academic misconduct across both campuses. This refers to pretending to be someone else to achieve a task on their behalf or doing so yourself. There was only one instance of impersonation across both campuses this year, a decrease from last year which recorded 14 cases at UBCV though none at UBCO.

Sexual misconduct cases increased at UBCV

Reported sexual misconduct cases at UBCV rose from four in 2020/21 to twelve in 2021/22, while UBCO only had three cases both years. These cases are all instances of violation of UBC’s Policy SC-17.

Similarly, violations of the UBC Student Code of Conduct refer to inappropriate, non-consensual or harmful behaviour. Here, charges only increased from zero cases to two at UBCO and remained at two at UBCV.