how would you answer?

With the aid of, I caught a number of students in my large class who plagiarized an ungraded book comment assignment.  They were given a zero on the assignment and a formal letter of discipline describing specifically what they did and were and told that a copy of the discipline letter would be forwarded to the dean.  University policy is that if there is no other academic dishonesty on their record, no further action is taken and these letters are not part of the student’s permanent record, no notation is made on the transcript, and the records are generally covered by the confidentiality laws.

One student whose dishonesty was particularly egregious — involving re-submitting a paper that had been submitted by another student in a previous semester (an act I consider to indicate a strong likelihood of other undetected offenses) — was most concerned about whether this would affect her applications to a medical professional program.   I told her at the time that I personally would not want a medical professional treating me who had a habit of cheating her way through school, but clearly and honestly explained the confidentiality policy to her, repeatedly.

Now I get a note from her.  She has to decide whether to check yes or no to a question about whether she has ever engaged in misconduct.  She says “I would never lie” on the application “so if this is info they will have access to I will check yes” but fears that being honest about her dishonesty (if you get my drift) will hurt her application chances (as perhaps it ought to).   As far as I know “they” will not have access to the information, but it is also true that she has been formally disciplined for misconduct.

What would you say to her?  I’m thinking of saying: “Isn’t the honest answer to the question yes?”   But I sort of feel like saying: So you think dishonesty only counts if people know about it?

In her defense (and that of the other students who cheated), the assignment was ungraded, you just had to do it, which led them to console themselves that it did not matter much.  But back on the first hand, the syllabus clearly stated that cheating on the ungraded assignments would be prosecuted as plagiarism.