May 2020

For the fourth year running, Texas Tech University’s Ethics Center has hosted a Faculty, Student and Staff Ethics Symposium. Every spring, the campus community is invited to submit current scholarship related to ethics either from within an academic field or more broadly related to the work of an academic community. Submitted papers are judged by a panel of faculty and staff who rate them to award first, second, and third place for faculty, staff, and student categories. The winners present their work during the symposium and are awarded monetary prizes. The submitted papers are also collected for an edition of the Journal of the TTU Ethics Center (forthcoming this Fall, 2020).

2020’s symposium was held as a virtual event attended online by the Ethics Center staff and sponsors as well as the winning presenters. Participants submitted papers and made presentations addressing topics as diverse as ethical issues in advocating for children in foster care, student use of online “study” companies, and the ethics of borderland land claims in Texas. The research represents the spectrum of TTU’s scholarly community and its interests as related to problems in ethics.

Among those in the faculty category, the third place winner was Associate Professor of English, Dr. Cordelia Barrera speaking on the ethics of borderland land rights and a history of dispossession in the Southwest. Second place was awarded to Dr. Duane Hoover, Professor of Practice in the Rawls College of Business who presented on ethical decision making using a model of requisite variety. The first place award was presented to Assistant Professor Daniel Kelly from the Department of Educational Psychology and Leadership in the College of Education for his paper on the ethics issues involved in conducting research on children in foster care.

Among the student paper presentations, third place was awarded to Matthew Streseman and Joseph Millican, (Rawls College) for their work on the student use of Chegg, an online study service, and how students assess their use of it in terms of academic dishonesty. Second place was awarded to Blain Pearson (Human Sciences, Personal Financial Planning) for his work on consumer knowledge of ethics violations by personal financial planners. The first place awardee in the student category was Ngan Nguyen (College of Education, Curriculum and Instruction) for her study of a practice of care ethics for international graduate students at US universities.

It is with great pleasure that we present the video recording of the symposium showcasing work from these scholars from across the university community Please enjoy the presentations and join us in thanking the scholars for their excellent work.

Symposium link:  Link:

I work at the Center for Innovation in Education (CIE, for its initials in Spanish), at Universidad Panamericana in Mexico. The CIE is a space where we support professors to develop their creative ideas, launch projects and promote their teaching talent. We also hold different workshops for that purpose.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, our work team thought about creating a series of online workshops that would support our professors in their teaching practice during these contingency months. Among these, we decided to develop one on academic integrity that could help them to overcome some of the current challenges.

I had the opportunity to give this one on academic integrity last week and I want to share with you that the experience was very enriching and challenging. I started by explaining what academic integrity is, for all those professors new to the subject. In Mexico, this topic is not well known yet, so I thought it would be an excellent space to start the dialogue. The important thing was to emphasize that academic integrity is not only following rules, but knowing how to do what is right. Next, I explained some of the "more traditional" actions that involve academic dishonesty like copying on exams, plagiarism, fabrication or falsification of information, and inappropriate collaboration.

The next section of the workshop dealt with the subject of academic integrity in the online format as well of the contract cheating problem. Since many teachers do not know the term, in addition to the fact that the subject is not regulated in Mexico; I explained about it and gave some examples of sites that engage contract cheating and some ideas of how to avoid this academic misconduct. In recent years, talks have started on this matter in my country.

It was also important to tell them about new technologies that are undermining the commitment and effort of university students. An example of this are the task outsourcing companies that use algorithms to write essays using bots, based on keywords that the user / student writes. This new form of dishonesty is worrisome, as these programs offer immediacy when generating the tasks, as well as originality to pass the "detection test" of the text similarity identification tools. These advances in technology confirm how this represents a double-edged sword.

Finally, I had a discussion with the professors, where I asked them about some of the challenges of academic integrity that they have faced in this pandemic. Some of them commented that one of the most common problems has been in taking exams. Students find many ways to pass the answers and have books and resources next to their computers that they review at the time of the evaluation. Other students talk on the phone during the exam or leave the microphone open for listening. A professor expressed his concern about some flaws that have text similarity detection software, because many times the identification of similarity is not 100% accurate and also does not identify intelligent plagiarism.

Based on these concerns, I shared with them a list of support resources. However, I think that what is important, beyond sharing and leaning on didactic paraphernalia, is understanding how, from our teaching experience, we can leave a mark on students. How to engage them so they want to learn. Following this line, I leave this reflection by Rafael Alvira and Kurt Spang on writing in the souls of people:

To write in the soul is to awaken the love of the truth, so that it takes root in the most intimate part of man, and becomes the beginning of his movements. It requires knowing the person, loving him, and helping him acquire study and reflection habits. The sum of all these elements can enable us to write — not without trembling — in souls. (2006, p. 21)


Alvira, R. & Spang. K. (2006). Humanidades para el siglo XXI.  Eunsa.



Academic integrity in regular classrooms is not always easy to achieve, now imagine in remote ones. With the COVID-19 pandemic, this topic has become much more important, I might even say alarming. Because of my work, teachers constantly ask me how can they ensure that their students work with academic integrity, some of them, are even more distrustful and think that with remote classes it will be more common for students to commit academic dishonesty.

I am also a teacher and I must admit that this mistrust has also crossed my mind. However, I remember the foundations of teaching, where what is important, in addition to the knowledge that is taught, is the trust that must be built between student and teacher. With this said, I consider that the behavior of a student in the classroom should not be very different from the one shown on the computer outside the teacher’s view, but I do believe it is important that teachers should put the same effort in preparing our online classes as those in the classroom, even a little bit more to continue that trust and the fostering of academic integrity.

So here are some methods that Tricia Bertram from UC San Diego recommends to maintain academic integrity in online classes:

1. Inform and educate. Remind your students of the importance of academic integrity. Put in a strategic place on the platform that you use a content area with the integrity policies, the Honor Code of the university and the styles of citation. Establish new rules together for the now remote class. Ask them to sign an honor pledge on their assignments and tests. Explain what you expect from them and what they should expect from you. Apply a brief quiz of academic integrity concepts and advise them on the subject.

2. Prevent and protect. Remind and clarify the students the learning objectives of the course. Involve them in the design and deployment of the learning activities. Use clear rubrics and apply formative assessments. Ask them to cite and reference their information sources. Use challenging and meaningful assessment instruments. Build large banks of random questions with a time limit. Allow them to use “open notes” clarifying that this does not mean that someone can answer for them. Set up exercises with text similarity tools. Update your exams every semester.

3. Practice and support. Check all the assignments; you could identify contract cheating by detecting strange words, topics not seen in class, different wording than previous works, etc. Apply oral exams. Use tools to check text similarity. Stay available for your students, establish consulting hours. Be a model of integrity; cite your sources and images, evaluate on time and properly and be punctual and prepared for your class. Don´t forget to report academic dishonesty to the appropriate authorities at the university.

I am not saying that by doing all this we will avoid completely that students commit academic integrity breaches, but we definitely could reduce the chances and strengthen our path for the education of honest students and future decent and respectable citizens.

Information based on webinar “Going remote with Integrity” by Tricia Bertram Gallant in conjunction with UC San Diego Academic Integrity Office and the International Center for Academic Integrity.

About the Author
Adriana works at the Center for Integrity in Universidad de Monterrey (UDEM) as coordinator of the Integrity System and disciplinary advisor. She received her Bachelor´s degree in Information and Communication Sciences and her Master's degree in Education Sciences from the same university. She has worked in communication, public relations and fundraising at different organizations. Among her recent projects, she has promoted the involvement of student groups to promote integrity on campus, as well as the training for teachers and students to manage cases of academic dishonesty and student conduct. She is also a professor at this university and is part of a collaborative network with universities in Mexico and Latin America to promote the culture of academic integrity. All views presented are those of the author.