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Disclaimer: I am not thinking of actually doing this. This is just a random shower thought that I had.

I am a non-tenured adjunct instructor. Would I be disciplined or lose my job if I announced to my class that I was offering a $100 cash reward for any information about cheating taking place in the class? If someone did bring me information and I followed through and gave them $100, would that change anything? This would be my own money out of my own pocket.

I realize that different institutions have different policies, so there may not be a single correct answer. I'd be interested in whatever perspective you have to offer.

Note that I'm not asking whether this is a good idea, whether it's socially acceptable, whether it would upset the students or my colleagues, or even whether it's ethical — only whether I would face disciplinary action for doing it.

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    Start with the policies and procedures of where you work. We don't know them, so can't answer.
    – Jon Custer
    May 19, 2022 at 18:32
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    Quoting from the help (academia.stackexchange.com/help/dont-ask): "You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face. Chatty, open-ended questions diminish the usefulness of our site and push other questions off the front page."
    – Bryan Krause
    May 19, 2022 at 20:07
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    Given your last sentence, I don't think we can handle your question here. We could discuss the ethics, acceptability, or whether this is a good idea (as the existing answers indeed do), but only someone familiar with your institution's policies (and the people enforcing them) can tell you whether you would face disciplinary action.
    – cag51
    May 19, 2022 at 20:09

2 Answers 2

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I find it both lazy and unethical. Lazy because there are other ways to minimize/eliminate cheating, such as making cooperation among students part of the course. Unethical since you would be setting up a perverse incentive for people. Vigilanteism usually ends badly. If someone collects then they are likely to be shunned in the future. Students should be learning, not doing your monitoring job. You need to think about the side effects, and there could be several unintended consequences.

I'd be tempted to end your contract, honestly. And I'm happy it isn't a plan, but just a stray thought.

Offer rewards (probably not cash) for positive things. Best paper, most thoughtful question, things like that.

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(Disclaimer: I understand that this is an idea, not a plan.)

You should be concerned about whether it's unethical, precisely because your institution may well have a policy about "unprofessional or unethical behavior," as my own does. If it does, you'd be exposing yourself to a question of whether a Chair, a Dean, a Provost, or whomever might find this behavior to be unethical; if they do (and Buffy shows by example that they might), you could face sanctions.

I sit on the Grievance Review Committee for my institution. If a student brought a grievance against a professor (regardless of rank, tenure-track status, or anything else) for this type of action, I would be strongly inclined to agree that it was patently unethical behavior. Pitting students against one another would be, charitably, quite gross. Having cash-based transactions with your students would put you in very dangerous territory. A hypothetical instructor who behaved this way would receive precisely no support from me.

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