There were twelve cases of formal disciplinary action taken by DCU against its students in the 2014/15 academic year.
Three of the cases were for plagiarism, eight for a breach of exam regulations and one for a non-academic offence. Two hearings found that the student had no case to answer. The figures were released to The College View under the Freedom of Information Act.
Complaints against students are processed by the office of DCU’s chief operating officer (COO). If they are judged to be serious enough, they are forwarded on to the university’s disciplinary committee.
“A lot of the complaints are dealt with informally,” says Dr. Declan Raftery, the DCU COO. “This will happen if the offence isn’t seen as a major breach of policy. We try to bring cases to the disciplinary committee if it is absolutely necessary.”
Dr. Raftery’s office mediates around ten of these informal meetings a year. It is then a “judgement call” as to whether to involve the disciplinary committee. Most of these cases will be resolved without official action on the part of the university.
The DCU disciplinary committee is comprised of members of the academic staff, support staff and representatives of the student union. They can hand down a number of sanctions to students, from fines and community service right up to expulsion.
The university tends to be lenient with regards to social issues and will often mark down incidents of anti-social behaviour as an honest mistake. There is a zero tolerance policy for academic breaches however.
“There’s no wriggle room when it comes to exam breaches or plagiarism,” says Dr. Raftery. “The policies are there and the terms are absolute.”
While most non-academic cases are dealt with in an informal manner, cases which are deemed to be malicious in nature are automatically put to the disciplinary committee. Social media breaches make up a large part of these cases.
“If we are alerted to a breach of our social media policy we will investigate,” says Dr. Raftery. “Students have been sanctioned for their online behaviour before and I’m sure they will be again.”