Don’t cheat, new DISC label brands academic dishonesty on transcript

The new grade label DISC (discipline) will replace CW (compulsory withdrawal) on a student’s transcript, beside a letter grade, if they are forced to leave a class due to academic dishonesty.

Academic dishonesty includes activities such as plagiarism, cheating and contravention of academic regulations.

The Senate Committee on Instruction and Evaluation (SCIE) changed the comment because the meaning of discipline would be easier to understand than compulsory withdrawal for people viewing a transcript outside of the University of Manitoba, such as another educational institution.

Vice-provost academic affairs and chair of the SCIE, Karen Grant, explained that the change was made to ensure that all students and faculties were “treated in a common way.”
UMSU president Heather Laube said that the comment was more accurate but that it could be upsetting for a student to receive it.

“That’s why [ . . . ] it’s important for students to be able to have it taken off their transcripts.”

The executive director for Student Affairs, Lynn Smith, said that there were past problems with the CW comment.

The most significant issue with the CW label was that it wasn’t connected to the transcript notation explaining it, which a student can apply to have removed. That means the CW comment could stay on a transcript even if it wasn’t intended to be permanent.

Previously, it was unclear whether or not the CW would remain, but in the new system the disciplinary authority, meaning administration members responsible for punishing a student, would state a certain period of time for the DISC to be on the transcript.

Now when a student applies to have their grade comment removed, both the notation and DISC will be erased from their transcripts.

“That’s another reason why not using the CW as a permanent mark is to students’ advantage,” Smith pointed out.

During the Senate committee meeting on Sept. 8 when the motion to eliminate the CW label was passed, U of M Registrar Neil Marnoch indicated that there were some situations where the DISC comment could be permanent.

This would be the case in matters of serious research or admissions fraud, and also might occur in cases of a repeat offence.

Laube felt there should be consequences for students who commit serious acts of academic dishonesty, as long as the process for using the DISC label was fair and the appeals process ran smoothly.

“Students should always have the opportunity for a second chance,” Laube said.

She also explained that UMSU wants to ensure that students aren’t permanently punished for one desperate act, but that there will be consequences if students have repeat offences.

The DISC label could have serious effects for students if it shows up on a transcript submitted to a potential employer or admissions office at another academic institution.

“If the comment is still on a student’s transcripts after graduation, applying to a potential employer or a grad school would be a challenge,” Smith explained.

However, in most cases student’s can apply to have the comment removed three months
before graduation.

In addition to the DISC comment, there will be a brief description of the disciplinary decision or action accessible to disciplinary authorities.

Students would be informed of this description through a letter from the disciplinary authority, which would also explain the decision and the disciplinary action.

UMSU stated that this system is better than the alternative where there is no efficient way for a student to deal with their history.

“We would rather have a student’s academic integrity history well-kept and student-reviewable than in ad-hoc and in hidden files.”

This will not appear on a student’s transcript and access will be limited to academic advisors within a student’s program. Smith explained that only discipline authorities who need information about previous incidents would need to know about it.

Smith further stated that the change will make it a “clearer and cleaner process.”

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