Having worked for over ten years in an Office of Academic Integrity established in 2008, I sometimes forget how rare such units are. Few higher educational institutions across North America have dedicated offices for academic integrity. So, what has set Waterloo apart?

First and foremost, our senior administrator, Bruce Mitchell (Associate Provost, Academic and Student Affairs), championed academic integrity. He led a committee that explored this topic across our campus. As part of the initial exploration, we deployed the McCabe survey in 2006. The findings, compared to other Canadian and U.S. schools, informed a final report titled “Toward a Level Playing Field: Enhancing Academic Integrity at the University of Waterloo.” The report included 36 recommendations, one of which was to establish an Office of Academic Integrity, with the purpose of centrally coordinating and providing oversight on matters related to academic integrity.

“Toward a Level Playing Field” served as an institutional roadmap and has played a crucial role in many academic integrity initiatives at Waterloo. It also remains a valuable reference for other institutions, as its recommendations remain relevant today.

Waterloo’s Office of Academic Integrity started small, with a half-time position, and gradually expanded. With our limited capacity, we forged relationships and collaborated with other larger campus offices, including the Library, Student Success Office, and Writing and Communication Centre. Given that academic integrity is a foundational piece of higher education, the principles of integrity have been woven throughout the fabric of our institution rather than being waved as one banner by a solitary office. Ongoing collaborations and engagement with academic support units (e.g., Library, Student Success Office), associate deans, instructors, and student societies, who have supported and championed integrity have sustained our office. These interactions have created reciprocal relationships which help us to adapt and best serve the needs of our campus.

Waterloo’s Office of Academic Integrity is just one example of how such a unit can be built. There are many options and considerations – there is not one “right” way to establish an office. That said, if your institution does not have an academic integrity office - now is the time to build one. The pandemic, shift to online learning, and the rise of contract cheating and the misuse of generative artificial intelligence highlight academic integrity as a global priority. Higher education institutions have a prime opportunity to establish a dedicated office and enshrine a culture of integrity. According to Vogt & Eaton (2022), having such an office signals the importance of integrity at an institution. Moreover, a dedicated office ensures a coordinated effort to maintain integrity and consistent messaging (Eaton et al., 2023; Educational Advisory Board, 2012; McCabe et al., 2012) and the application of related policy.

Ahuna, Frankovitch, and Murphy (2023) indicated that [academic integrity] ... “is so central and fundamental to the work of higher education, that it is sometimes invisible and may be taken for granted”. This work cannot be successfully done off the side of someone’s desk or in the shadows. Often the barrier to developing an office is funding. However, if all the time and effort of people across the institution who are doing piecemeal work in academic integrity was pooled into one well-resourced office of academic integrity – imagine the efficiencies and benefits!

Academic integrity cannot remain on the sidelines—it must take center stage! #Makeitsomeonesjob

References
Academic Integrity Committee (2007). Toward a Level Playing Field: Enhancing Academic Integrity at the University of Waterloo. University of Waterloo.
Ahuna, K. H., Frankovitch, L. Murphy, G. (2023). Claiming Space for Honest Work: Academic Integrity as Third Space labor. Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor, 34, 75-87.
Eaton, S. E., Stoesz, B. M., Crossman, K., Garwood, K., & McKenzie, A. (2023). Faculty Perspectives of Academic Integrity During COVID-19: A Mixed Methods Study of Four Canadian Universities. Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 52(3), 42–58. https://doi.org/10.47678/cjhe.vi0.189783
Educational Advisory Board (2012) Campus-wide Initiatives to Promote Student Integrity. Custom Research Brief.
McCabe, Donald & Butterfield, Kenneth & Treviño, L.K. (2012). Cheating in college: Why students do it and what educators can do about it. Cheating in College: Why Students do it and what Educators Can do About it. 1-225.
Vogt, L., & Eaton, S. E. (2022). Make it someone’s job: Documenting the growth of the academic integrity profession through a collection of position postings. Canadian Perspectives on Academic Integrity, 5(1), 21–27. https://doi.org/10.11575/cpai.v5i1.74195

Amanda McKenzie, Director, Office of Academic Integrity, University of Waterloo
Emeritus, ICAI Board of Directors

The author’s views are their own.

 

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