2021

As institutions gear up for another academic year, faculty are again tasked with setting up their courses for the upcoming semester. Whether your institution is fully online, continuing to operate in a hybrid/hyflex model, or returning fully in person, there is always room to discuss ethics and academic integrity. Looking at the current iteration of your course plans, consider these 5 topics:

  1. Subject Mastery Motivation: Faculty are already designing assignments to help students master the course content, but students may not realize this. When they do not understand this purpose, or why it matters for their future coursework, they may find themselves motivated solely by grade acheivement. Plan to motivate your students by discussing why the assignments were chosen and how they are created to help them move to future coursework and careers.

  2. Assignment Requirements: Do any assignments ask students how they made sure it was ethically completed? If the students' future professional codes of conduct need to be considered in the project, it may help familiarize them with the standards they will need to follow later in life. Further, having the students explain why that aspect of the code of conduct matters may help them connect their personal values to the ethical standards institutions and employers expect them to uphold.

  3. Rubrics: Rubrics help students understand how grades are assigned. Providing a rubric may be the bare minimum. Adding information telling students how they can complete an assignment with integrity may help you avoid some cheating issues. For example, if students are allowed to collaborate on the assignment, the rubric should lay out the parameters for appropriate collaboration vs. collusion. If faculty are assigning a writing project, the rubric should have links and information to the campus writing center, library, and any plagiarism resources. 

  4. Strategic Integrity Talks: It may be tempting to address academic integrity on the first day of class and assume students understand what is expected. However, each assignment offers an opportunity to discuss honest work both in the classroom and their careers. Connect assignments today to ethical conduct in the future. For example, faculty assigning a project that involves data collection and reporting may want to discuss the ethics of data falsification. They can address the consequences to individuals that have falsified data and the impact of data falsification.

  5. Flexibility: The pivot to distance and remote learning provided students with more flexibility, and it allowed faculty to see students as individuals. As institutions return to pre-pandemic formats, this flexibility does not need to disappear. Compassion for students may just be the key to their continued success. 

 This list is not exhaustive. There are many opportunities to embed integrity into every course, and institutions may have an office to help faculty develop their courses to promote honest student success. Students are often told to take advantage of the resources offered by the institutions, and faculty should do the same.

If you have examples of how you've embedded integrity in your courses, share them share them by commenting below or tweeting @TweetCAI.

Join the Southeast Regional Consortium for a free, virtual conference this fall! This year's conference theme is Transitioning Back - Planning to the Return to "Normal" and features two tracks for attendees. Join the Teaching and Learning Track to discuss connecting with faculty, integrating academic integrity curriculum into your courses, and student-centric approaches to academic misconduct. The Practitioners Track will review challenges, opportunities, and policy shifts from the last year. 

The conference is scheduled October 28 - October 29, and you can find more information here.

Have a topic you would like to share, use this link to submit a conference proposal. Conference proposals must be submitted prior to September 24, 2021 at 5 PM EST to be considered, and you will be notified via e-mail if your proposal has been accepted by October 1, 2021.

Registration is open! If you would like to attend, you can use this link to register through 5 PM EST on October 27, 2021. 

If you are interested in joining the Southeast Consortium or serving on a committee within the region, please contact 

Since March 2020 and the transition to remote learning, Conflict Resolution Services at Colorado State University experienced an exponential increase in referrals for students seeking support around academic integrity charges. Conflict Resolution staff do not serve as decision-makers in these cases but instead as a resource for students to confidentially seek support for understanding policies associated with academic misconduct, receive coaching for their student conduct hearing, and process their experience with being accused of violating the academic integrity policies.  

As someone who frequently meets with students and staff regarding academic integrity matters, I was invited to share some observations and recommendations for University faculty and staff.

Reflections from Student Meetings

Each student who violates academic integrity policies will behave differently when confronted. What I hear often from faculty is feeling confused after meeting with students who denies the allegation, even when the evidence is clear. From my experience meeting with students, it’s helpful to remember that accusations related to a crime of morality, such as cheating or stealing, can illicit a strong contrarian response because these are crimes of character that make students feel like their core morals are being questioned. It is not unusual to meet with students who feel as though they must go out of their way to defend their academic record, their virtues as a student, and how good of a person they are in spite of the evidence they violated the academic integrity policies. This insight can help make sense of a student who may initially deny these allegations and allow you to respond accordingly. Some options could include:

  • Scheduling a follow up meeting with the student to allow them time to process the allegations.
  • Partner with your Student Conduct office to ensure the duty of adjudication falls on an outside reviewer so that the faculty is not in the position of needing to investigate and make a decision if the student continues to deny the claim.

If a student accepts responsibility for violating academic integrity policies, another common reaction can be deep shame and embarrassment for some of the same reasons that cause a hostile reaction. Students can begin to deeply question their worth and value in the classroom for making a mistake that is shortsighted and often done from desperation. In my conversations with students, they often question if they even belong in the classroom or dread future class meetings where they wonder what their instructor thinks of them. It is understandable that faculty want students to be held accountable for violating academic integrity policies and when personal shame remains unchallenged it ultimately results in future escalated destructive behaviors. Shame says that the student is a bad person, whereas guilt says that the student did a bad thing but is still a good person.

The more we can encourage reflection on the behavior itself being bad rather than the person themselves being fundamentally flawed, the more productively the student can reflect and grow from their decision to violate the academic integrity policy. Some ways to put this into practice:

  • Ask open ended questions rather than closed or leading questions. (e.g., “Can you help me understand what happened” versus, “Why did you cheat on my exam?”)
  • Listen deeply and offer a reflection on what you’ve heard to indicate understanding rather than rebutting what the student shares.
  • Assess your mindset entering the conversation – if you are feeling angry or resentful it comes out in the way you will engage with the student.

Academic Integrity Prevention Efforts

It is not unusual to meet with students who genuinely did not understand that their behavior violated the University’s academic integrity policies. The abrupt switch to virtual learning in Spring 2020 presented an unprecedented time of instability and change in learning environments. Students needed to adjust to new options for communicating with peers. This often resulted in students unintentionally accessing spaces where cheating was taking place, such as in group message threads and on websites like Chegg.

I would encourage faculty to proactively reiterate the importance of academic integrity not only at the beginning of the semester when reviewing the syllabus but also before major assignments and exams as well. Where possible, it’s helpful to be specific with students by providing examples of behavior that you consider a violation of academic integrity policies rather than trusting they know how to interpret these policies on their own. As you design assignments, be as explicit as possible about course parameters. For example:

  • What (if any) outside resources are acceptable to use and when?
  • Is group work ever allowed?
  • If so, what’s the line between collaboration and misconduct?

When these matters are explicitly listed in the course materials, it leaves less room for ambiguity and allows students to more clearly understand expectations.

Finally, it’s possible that students are engaging in academic dishonesty because they feel out of other options. Consider sharing some of the support resources available for students who may be feeling overwhelmed such as the counseling center or tutoring services. While upholding the academic rigor of your course, also consider areas of flexibility that might make the difference for a student who might otherwise cheat in order to keep up in class.

With summer in full swing and the COVD-19 pandemic hopefully in our collective rearview mirror, the upcoming fall semester may be the first “normal” semester most students, faculty, and staff have experienced since Fall 2019. With this return, colleges are sure to implement new public health policies that are designed to give us a sense of normalcy, but still attempt to keep everyone healthy and prevent outbreaks. These decisions and policies are sure to raise questions and cause disagreements. Previous public health recommendations and subsequent updates from the CDC regarding mask usage, social distancing, indoor vs. outdoor gatherings with vaccinated/unvaccinated individuals caused understandable public confusion and even accusations, from some, that the science and scientists themselves were inconsistent, so their findings and recommendations could be disregarded. Given how politicized the pandemic became and continues to be and how partisan and polarized our country has become, it’s reasonable to expect this cycle to continue and for these questions and disagreements to find their way into campus classrooms as local health officials and college administrators make adjustments to policies in an attempt to keep transmission of COVID-19 to a minimum. In the meantime, we can prepare for these conversations by remembering a few things. First, science isn’t always perfect, but it’s the best tool we have for understanding the world. Second, maintaining integrity will help us avoid some of the pitfalls that organizations, like the NCAA, have recently failed to navigate.

I first want to highlight some components of integrity that are key to our understanding of the successful communication of science and changing of public behavior and attitudes to reduce infection rates. These components are honesty, transparency, and consistency. The public, including college students, want to see consistency in words and actions and when new evidence emerges that demands changing public health guidelines, they expect an honest and transparent explanation.

We also need to understand that as individuals working in higher education, we probably have a different perception of the scientific method and the relationship between science and integrity. To quote Sir Peter Medawar (1915-1987), “[i]n terms of fulfilment of declared intentions, science is incomparably the most successful enterprise human beings have ever engaged upon.” Science is the light that is leading us out of an incredibly dark moment in the history of the world. Advancements in epidemiology, genetics, and communication technology allowed public health officials to detect and communicate about the spread of a novel coronavirus capable of triggering a global pandemic in order for public health policies to be put into place to slow the spread and minimize the human and financial cost. As bad as it was, it could have been much worse. Science also provided us the ability to map the virus’ genome and share this information almost instantaneously so that an international effort could be launched to develop vaccines. While the many variants of COVID-19 continue to spread and we don’t yet have a full grasp of how bad things were or how bad they could have been, it does seem as if, at least overall, the virus is abating and we have science to thank for that. However, that does not mean that science is perfect, that mistakes weren’t made, and that mistakes will not continue to be made. It’s understandable that in a climate where science seems to constantly be under attack, staunch defenders of science would want to overlook, ignore, or gloss over these mistakes and perceived inconsistencies. Yet, this is where we can remind students that these revisions and updates, that they view as inconsistencies, are proof of science’s integrity. Science may not always get it right and it’s always open to revision and criticism, but it's the best tool we have for understanding our world.

A recent example of an organization that found itself at the intersection of integrity and science-based public health policies is the NCAA. The NCAA’s decision to eliminate the NC State Wolfpack baseball team from the College World Series semifinals caused outrage among players and fans. I’m not connected to NC State in any way. In fact, I’m not even a big fan of baseball, but if this story caught my attention, there's a good chance it may be a topic of formal and informal discussion in our classrooms this fall.

For those who are unaware, the NCAA established clear guidelines for testing and vaccinations before the tournament started. Unvaccinated players were tested regularly and those that tested positive were not allowed to play. After 8 NC State players tested positive, NC State chose to not forfeit their third game against Vanderbilt despite only having an available roster of thirteen players. When even more players tested positive following that loss, four of which were vaccinated, the NCAA was forced to eliminate NC State from the tournament despite the fact NC State was leading the series 2-1 against Vanderbilt and one win away from the finals. NC State players, students, and fans were outraged and there is little doubt that, in the minds of many, there will always be an asterisk next to Mississippi State’s name in the record books. To be clear, players and fans may be upset, but the NCAA followed the established guidelines and the NC State coaches and administrators have publicly stated that they accept the NCAA’s decision.

However, let’s examine the optics surrounding the NCAA’s decision and how it hurts their integrity and credibility. While the decision itself followed their established guidelines, the NCAA also chose to allow unmasked/unvaccinated fans to attend these games and even posted photos to social media boasting of record attendance (Game 3 had 24,052 fans) which clearly show maskless fans not social distancing. A key component of integrity is consistency and here is where the NCAA’s integrity has fallen short. Players and fans are right to point out the hypocrisy of the NCAA posting photos with crowded maskless stadiums boasting of attendance records alongside news that the NCAA has also eliminated a potential national championship baseball team citing health safety concerns. It would be easy to shy away from this conversation in class or simply point out that the NC State players knew the risk they were taking in not being vaccinated. However, I believe this is an excellent opportunity to discuss why consistency and integrity matters and how the NCAA failed its players and fans. As educators, it’s our job to fully understand the facts surrounding the situation and address the responsibility of the players who chose to remain unvaccinated because there are numerous misunderstandings surrounding the NCAA’s decision. We should also point out the inconsistencies in the NCAA’s messaging and discuss how they could have maintained their integrity, regardless of their decision to eliminate NC State.

The science behind the NCAA’s decision to eliminate NC State was sound, but there is no science, except economics, behind their decision to also allow unmasked and unvaccinated fans to crowd into stadiums. Their silence and lack of transparency in how they arrived at two very different policies for fans and players hurts their integrity as an organization.

As we return to campus in August, we will most likely find ourselves dealing with new public health policies from college administrators and confused, possibly disgruntled students. Regardless of the discipline we teach, we need to be ready to have conversations with our students about the integrity of science and how it's the best available tool to help us understand our world. We may also need to guide discussions and conversations with students, both formally and informally, about some of the possible inconsistencies students see in the policies institutions implement, where the breakdown in integrity may have occurred, and what could have been done to prevent and/or repair the damaged integrity. In science, there is value to failure. The same can be said for public failures in integrity. There is always a lesson to be learned and I can't think of better place to learn these lessons than in our classrooms.

The first piece I ever wrote for the ICAI Blog was a longish rumination on the impact of the Houston Astros cheating scandal and what universities could learn from how it managed (and mismanaged) it. Only a few years have passed and Major League Baseball, America’s pastime and one of the most successful sports industries in the world, is again dealing with another crisis involving the integrity of the game and how it manages cheating.

What is Happening

For my non-sportsy colleagues: the current scandal involves the practice of a pitcher placing a substance on his hands or the baseball to increase traction when he throws the ball. By doing so, he is able to spin the ball at a much higher rate of rotation as he pitches it.  The increased rotation gives the pitcher maximum control and increases his ability to make the ball “break” before reaching the batter.

If you’ve never seen this happen to a ball, it’s a truly amazing thing to behold. The ball breaks, it moves in unpredictable ways (from the batter’s perspective), it appears to rise when it should be falling. Simply put, it makes the ball move in ways it really shouldn’t. Or, at least, it moves in ways batters haven’t seen before.

The substances being used run the gamut from homemade recipes (usually a mixture of sunscreen and rosin- the material batters use to help them grip the bat safely) to more advanced substances (such as Spider-tack).

These doctored pitches have become nearly unhittable. Sports Illustrated, in a recent article on the issue, lamented that “never in the history of Major League Baseball has it been so hard to hit the ball.” Offense is down, strikeouts are way up. Fans are bored. The sport and its industry are in peril.

Why it Matters

All of this is happening because of cheating.

MLB has rules on substances on baseballs it has never really enforced, and there’s the rub (if you’ll forgive the pun).  There is a long history of semi-sanctioned cheating in this sport. It is a sport often governed by tradition and unwritten rules. That old reality is now clashing with twenty-first century analytics, science, and, frankly, high-definition television. In other words, at the same time that the cheating is getting worse, viewers are becoming more aware of it. At the same time, a problem that existed in a subdued state only a few years ago, exploded this year.

This is where I found the parallels with higher ed, and how we managed cheating pre-pandemic so similar. MLB’s newest cheating problem and how they’ve managed it provide some helpful takeaways for us, if we’re watching closely.

  • Like baseball, universities are sites of tradition and culture. Like baseball, universities are now having to think about what they’ve done (or failed to do) to create a culture of integrity and support behavior that follows their espoused values and governing norms. Having rules on the books is important, but as the last year has shown, universities can’t sanction their way out of this problem. Those of us who have been talking about building cultures of integrity should recognize immediately that this is probably the most receptive academic leaders have ever been to efforts to build a university-wide culture of integrity. Never let a good crisis go to waste, goes the old saying.
  • Problems poorly addressed in the past can become crises today. Simply put, the conditions coalesced to bring us the cheating crisis destroying baseball today. It wasn’t just the use of foreign substances. It was foreign substances + a lighter baseball + institutionalized analytics in each ballclub enabling and enhancing the behavior + batters coming off a pandemic-shortened season. The same can be said for last year’s rise in rampant cheating. Behavior that we struggled to contain pre-pandemic, exploded post-pandemic because of a confluence of conditions. This is an argument against institutional complacency and tolerance of those behaviors. I don’t know how, but we need to find some way of communicating the peril to those in positions of power before issues become crises.
  • It exposes a clash of cultures. One of the saddest things I’ve witnessed since MLB issued new guidance for how they would address this issue is the parade of old ballplayers, columnists, and broadcasters lamenting the loss of some great tradition. Or, they trot out the “why now?” or the “You’ve gone too far” arguments. It’s odd to see some actively arguing for cheating. However, people feel ownership of the weirdest things: sports, universities, you name it. When it comes to higher ed, we want students, parents, and alumni to feel invested in the university, but we need to be aware that change is often met with pushback because it upsets people’s feelings of ownership. Baseball needs to change. Some will find it hard to accept that. Universities, and their cultures of integrity, will also need to change. That will rub someone, probably someone with money, the wrong way. Academic leaders need to be prepared and empowered to have difficult conversations about what they’re trying to build and why.

Sunday, as I was writing a draft of this post, a pitcher for the Seattle Mariners was ejected from a ballgame under suspicion of using a foriegn substance. His glove was taken for examination and if it's found to have a foreign substance on it, the pitcher will face a suspension under the MLB’s new rules guidance. It’s a good start. Every summer I coach my son’s youth baseball team. Every year, the players look for any advantage they can find to hit better, throw more accurately, and run faster. When they hear about a professional (a big leaguer!) being held accountable for his actions, it reminds them that there is a line that shouldn’t be crossed between cheating and personal improvement through learning, practice, and growth. They learn that games must be fair to be worth playing.

COIN (Consortium for Online Integrity) is seeking members who have a specific interest in online academic integrity. COIN is a new regional group within the International Center for Academic Integrity.   The group’s mission is to build a community of accredited institutions engaged in online education, who are focused on promoting academic integrity in order to protect every student and the value of each degree, certification, license, and/or credential, and support the mission of the ICAI.

Membership in COIN represents your institution’s commitment to contribute to our mission and participate in our activities. In turn, membership entitles you to share in our resources, knowledge, and community of practice.

Eligibility for membership is limited to current ICAI member institutions.

If you are interested in your institution becoming a member of COIN, please complete the COIN MEMBERSHIP APPLICATION, and our Membership Coordinator will follow up with you.   We expect to hold a meet & great in the summer to get ideas for collaboration in the next year.

For any questions or concerns please contact: Maureen O’Brien, Membership Coordinator, at or 801-428-5906.

The mass transition to remote and online learning has certainly presented many challenges, not the least of which has been an increase in the opportunity for students to engage in academic dishonesty.   This has been made especially evident in service-level mathematics courses.  Applications such as Mathway and Symbolab have made it very easy for students to access step-by-step problem solutions while working on course assignments, including online exams.   In 2020, the number of questions posted to Chegg.com between April and August reportedly increased by nearly 200% over the same time-period in the previous year (Lancaster & Cotarlan, 2021).  While there are many strategies for improving and protecting online exam integrity, including the use of multiple exam versions, randomizing question order, and utilizing online proctoring services, no method is foolproof.  The online proctoring service ProctorU administered 340,000 exams in the first three months of 2020 with fewer than 1% cases of cheating.  However, over the course of April, May, and June, the number of administered exams vaulted to 1.3 million while the percentage of students caught cheating rose to more than 8% (Newton, 2020).

One way that we can encourage a culture of academic integrity is to increase instructor immediacy.  Instructor immediacy can be thought of as the behavior that decreases the perceived separation between students and the instructor.   Immediacy is about showing our students that we care; and that we are accessible.  There is a connection between instructor immediacy and academic integrity.   Indeed, it has been shown that instructor immediacy has a significant impact in encouraging honor-code compliance (LoShiavo & Shatz, 2011).  It has also been shown that instructor behavior evaluations were lower among students who had self-reportedly engaged in academic dishonesty (Stearns, 2001).  We can embolden students to embrace academy integrity by increasing our instructor presence.

One way to begin establishing presence would be to create and post a welcome video for students at the beginning of each semester.  You can use this video to introduce yourself, discuss the syllabus, and to briefly provide an outline of your course setup in the LMS.  This allows the students an opportunity to see your face and hear your voice.  I like to email a link to this video on the Friday before classes begin.

It is also important to be proactive in contacting struggling students.  If a student misses or underperforms on an assignment, send a quick email to let the student know that you noticed.  Use this contact as an opening to ask how everything is going.  This gives you an opportunity to initiate a conversation with the student regarding any issues with which they may be dealing.  In my experience, students are more likely to respond to my email and share their situation when they might not have initiated the conversation on their own.  Make it a point, also, to periodically send messages to students who are doing well.  We all like to feel recognized.  Sending out some quick kudos is a good way to acknowledge student performance while illustrating that you are paying attention.  This strategy is not as time consuming as it might seem.  I often use an email template so that I can copy-paste, and then personalize.              

Post weekly course announcements to remind your students of upcoming assignments or to give an overview of what is to come in the class.  If your class is asynchronous, you might consider recording a quick announcement video.  This will give your students another opportunity to see your face and further shows that you are a real person with whom they can communicate.

Finally, do not try to be perfect.  It can be beneficial to your students to know that you are adjusting just as they are.  When courses at my institution pivoted to a remote format in March 2020, I found myself teaching from home with two small children.  As much as I tried to limit class interruptions, they were inevitable, whether it be a herd of wild dinosaurs parading through my living room or a full-on temper-tantrum.  I was nervous that these encounters would detract from the learning experience.  However, getting a glimpse into my life was humanizing.  Students began to ask about my kids.  These students were, then, more likely to ask questions about course material or even attend virtual office hours. 

By increasing our presence and creating connections with our students, we can create an environment in which students are comfortable discussing course materials or other issues.  This will increase motivation and decrease stress and anxiety.  In doing so, we can encourage a culture of academic integrity. 

References

Lancaster, T., & Cotarlan, C. (2021). Contract Cheating by STEM Students through a fil sharing website: A COVID-19 Pandemic Perspective. International Journal for Educational Integrity. Obtenido de https://edintegrity.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1007/s40979-021-00070-0

LoShiavo, F. M., & Shatz, M. A. (2011). The Impact of an Honor code on Cheating in Online Courses. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching. Obtenido de https://jolt.merlot.org/vol7no2/loschiavo_0611.pdf

Newton, D. (7 de August de 2020). Another Problem with Shifting Education Online: A Rise in Cheating. Obtenido de The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/another-problem-with-shifting-education-online-a-rise-in-cheating/2020/08/07/1284c9f6-d762-11ea-aff6-220dd3a14741_story.html

Stearns, S. (2001). The Student-Instructor Rrelationship's Effect on Academic Integrity. Ethics and Behavior, 11(3), 275-285.

This week ushers in the first full week of summer. Many of us look forward to these days in the academic calendar to take some much needed annual leave, recharge, and to plan for the fall. Every summer, as I complete my budget request, I’m struck by the sheer number of possibilities when it comes to programming I could do. It’s an opportunity to show creativity and it’s one of my favorite aspects of doing integrity work for a university. One area that I always try to mix up and keep fresh involves the materials we put out across the university. These run the gamut from resources and handouts to promotional items meant for students. Today, I wanted to share two particular successes and why I think they have worked.

The first includes the story of my first foray into the world of promotional schwag. A little background here: I was a tenured English professor before I took my current position, but I did have a little experience with student organizations. I advised the College Democrats and we had notable success with programming from time to time. However, I was never really expected to think about what kinds of schwag (or other promotional materials) mattered to students. That’s why, when it came time to decide on materials in my first year, I started from scratch. My saving grace (in other words, the thing that kept me from wasting money) was that I knew that I didn’t know what I was doing. So, I started asking students. I asked the students who tutored in our unit (the Institute for Learning and Teaching) and I asked students in adjacent student affairs units. The first question I asked was, “What was the best schwag you ever got on campus?” The second question I asked was, “What was it for?”

I got a lot of answers, and, in addition to ideas for individual items, I started to piece together what made schwag successful. Here’s what I concluded:

  1. It had to be something students wanted.
  2. It had to be something they wouldn’t throw away immediately.
  3. It had to have an obvious connection to your department or program, but it didn’t have to be perfectly connected. In other words, as long as the item was branded clearly, it didn’t matter if its function was related to the work done in your department.

That last part was particularly important. If the student couldn’t tell me who gave them the item (that they remembered as the best), what was the point?

That first year I decided to do hot/cold packs with the CSU Honor Pledge emblazoned across the front. What do hot/cold packs have to do with integrity? Nothing. Why did I put the pledge on a hot/cold pack? Simply put, it was another place the students would see the Honor Pledge, and we believed that in addition to seeing it on their exams, on screens across the campus, on building walls, and in other places, there was a cumulative effect. They were about the size of your palm and so I liked the idea that, when they were nursing a sore knee or elbow, they had to read the pledge.

Hold cold pack

The second successful campaign was a refresh from work my predecessor had started. Simply put, the idea was to make bookmarks with the CSU Honor Pledge on one side; a copy of the academic calendar on the other. At first glance, that sounds like the kind of thing students throw away easily, but what I found was that the academic calendar (especially with its relevant “add/drop dates”) kept that item around.

I tried multiple versions of those bookmarks. The most successful version, I think, involved removing the Honor Pledge (which, by that time, had appeared on them for four years running) in favor of integrity-related quotes from recognizable and admired speakers. I included quotes from Mr. Rogers, Frederick Douglass, and Michelle Obama.

However, the thing that made the bookmarks most successful was this: I created them knowing exactly how I would use and distribute them. Every fall, our Housing department puts together a welcome packet for every student entering the residence halls. I knew when we created all 6900 of them exactly how we would get them in front of students.

bookmarks

That leads me to my next take-away: the best schwag is created in collaboration. I knew our student government group needed something to hand out during Academic Integrity Week, so I gave them hot/cold packs. I knew that the dorm wanted something for their welcome packets, so I gave them bookmarks. The best use of our money comes in these moments when we can match our need to get information out about our program with someone else’s opportunity to distribute them directly to students.

Finally, it’s worth sharing advice that my friend and supervisor gave me when exploring these different ideas. After all, none of these ideas are cheap to design or produce. She asked me to remember that these funds represent money that is supposed to support students and their learning. If the efforts don’t match that mission, should we really spend that money? I think about this when I see some of the lavish spending across ostensibly student-focused departments: office-branded moleskine journals, coffee mugs, and t-shirts/fleeces for their employees (to say nothing of the sad parade of expensive team-building retreats). If you can’t make a reasonable argument that those funds are being used for students, keep your money, get creative, and go back to the drawing board.

As we head into the fall and you conclude your season of planning, may these experiences and take-aways guide you to better ideas that serve your students. Of course, if you have successful campaigns/ideas you’re willing to share, please let me and your colleagues know!  

One of the hard lessons we have had to learn (from the pandemic-related changes to our teaching and delivery of assessments) during the pandemic is that while we may have been moderately successful at enforcing compliance with academic integrity and misconduct policies, we have not been as successful at promoting a culture of integrity; when no one was looking, things went south quickly.

It comes as no surprise, then, that there seems to be an increased interest in restorative practices (RP) approaches to academic integrity. Besides providing effective tools to align academic integrity work with the aspirational goals related to civic education that we find reflected in postsecondary institutions’ mission and vision documents and often also in strategic plans, RP also operate on four principles tied directly to the promoting integrity, namely, “inclusive decision making,” “active accountability,” “repairing harm,” and “rebuilding trust” (Karp, 2019, p. 9). [not sure which URL to use here, or whether to use a reference (see below).

A quick word on definitions. I use RP as an umbrella term and restorative justice (RJ) as a sub-category underneath this umbrella that applies RP principles in a criminal justice setting. Thus, the information provided below referring to RJ also applies to RP more broadly.

Reservations remain, however, and these seem to be at least in part due to some persistent myths regarding RJ and RP. The following is an attempt to address some of these. Howard Zehr addresses many of these myths in his excellent Little book of restorative justice (2002):

Myth 1: RJ/RP first and foremost aims at forgiving the wrongdoer, reconciling with them, and at reducing recidivism

Although reconciliation and forgiveness may be part of the outcome of a restorative process, neither of them is necessary, nor are they the primary concern. The main focus of RP is on the harmed parties and on addressing their needs.

Myth 2: RJ/RP are an easy way out for offenders/allows them to shirk responsibility

This might seem counterintuitive, but in my experience and in that of other RJ/RP practitioners I have spoken with, engaging in an RP process is in fact more difficult for students who engaged in academic misconduct than participating in a quasi-legal, disciplinary hearing. An acknowledgment of responsibility is a precondition for a case to be considered appropriate for a restorative resolution attempt. Also, the RP process itself requires engaged listening, participation, and reflection as well as active accountability, as opposed to the often passive role students play in disciplinary hearings.

Myth 3: RJ/RP is a form of mediation

Mediation is mostly associated with finding a compromise between conflicting parties, who share responsibility in a conflict and whose interests are considered on a level playing field. In RJ/RP there are responsible parties and harmed parties, and although there may be harm on both sides, the focus is on an action that caused harm (e.g., academic misconduct), and the responsible party needs to show a willingness to explore the harms as well as ways to actively repair them.

Myth 4: RJ/RP might be appropriate for less serious offenses, but it not for serious ones

RJ/RP require engaged participation and have been shown to work better for more serious offenses. What is important is that the responsible party is held accountable and is supported in doing so.

Myth 5: RJ/RP is much more time and resource intensive than quasi-legal, disciplinary procedure

Although this may be the case in some cases and contexts, it is not necessarily so. The restorative procedures we have developed at MacEwan University keeps the time commitment about the same, while leading to much more satisfactory outcomes (see link to video interviews below).

Myth 6: Assigning educational outcomes is a form of RJ/RP

RJ/RP involve powerful processes that have the potential to be not only educational but also community-building. Deciding on outcomes is a collaborative effort and decision, and it is the process itself and the principles it is based on that makes it restorative. Assigning educational activities as the outcome of an otherwise adversarial, quasi-legal disciplinary procedure is quite different.

Myth/Contentious Issue: RJ/RP are an appropriation of Indigenous legal practices

RJ/RP integrates a blend of influences, including from Mennonites in North America and Indigenous traditions in New Zealand and North America. Although there are similarities with Indigenous legal practices, there seem to also be important differences. Chartrand & Horn (2018) provide an excellent discussion of this topic.

More information on RJ/RP and their application to academic integrity is provided in the ICAI Webinar: Academic Integrity and Restorative Practices, and short video interviews with MacEwan faculty members and a Students’ Association representative on the topic can be viewed here.

Reference:

Karp, D. R. (2019). The little book of restorative justice for colleges and universities: Repairing harm and rebuilding trust in response to student misconduct, 2nd edition. Good Books.

Are you concerned about possible increases in academic misconduct since the COVID-19 pandemic began? Are you an administrator or faculty member in higher education who might be interested in seeing, and helping to collect relevant data? We have been collecting data from students through an online survey since January, in two countries. We’re sharing some preliminary results below, and inviting you to join in the project. Rationale: Although anecdotal reports from organizations like the International Center for Academic Integrity and the European Network for Academic Integrity indicate that academic misconduct in institutions of higher education have increased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, generalizable data is limited, and relevant data collected directly from students is rare. Purpose: The purpose of this study is to investigate the beliefs and experiences of students in higher education regarding academic misconduct before and after the beginning of the pandemic. Methods: Our participants were post-secondary students from five of the stronger universities in Romania (N = 480) and 11 universities and colleges in the United States (N = 414). The sample included 119 first year students, 213 second year students, 214 third year students, 120 fourth year students, and 121 graduate students. Participants reported their gender identities as 255 male, 627 female, and 28 other. Specialties/majors included Generic 6, Education 110, Arts/Humanities 73, Social Sciences 175, Business 188, Natural Sciences 75, Information Tech 22, Engineering 139, Agriculture 22, Health/welfare 84, and Services 8. Participants completed a single survey that required about 15 minutes of their time. We asked participants three questions about their beliefs and experiences regarding three different types of academic misconduct. The three questions about beliefs and experiences asked what percent of their peers they believed were engaging in each of three types of academic misconduct, how many times they had witnessed a peer engaging in each of three types of academic misconduct, and how many times they had engaged in each of three types of academic misconduct themselves. The three different types of academic misconduct were cheating on examinations in class, cheating on assignments outside of class, and plagiarism. Using a retrospective pretest design, we asked each of these questions twice – once with respect to the year before the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and once with respect to the year since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. In other words, we asked a total of 18 questions about student beliefs and experiences: 3 types of misconduct X 3 types of beliefs or experiences X two time intervals (the years before and after beginning of the pandemic) = 18 questions. Results: Before and after the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Mean responses from Romanian students were significantly higher than mean responses for US students across all three questions and all three types of academic misconduct, with a few exceptions. In other words, students in Romania reported higher rates for believing their classmates were cheating, observing their classmates cheat, and acknowledging their own academic misconduct, than students in the US, both before and after the pandemic began.
  • Almost all of these means were also greater during the year after the pandemic began than they were during the year before the pandemic began.
  • More interestingly, Romanians reported a reduction in cheating on assignments since the start of the pandemic, while US students reported an increase in cheating on assignments.
  • Students from both countries reported a decrease in plagiarism since the beginning of the pandemic, with a greater drop reported by the Romanian students.

What’s Next:

  • We have now collected more than 1,300 responses in the United States and 1,800 in Romania.
  • We are beginning to collect data in Canada.
  • Colleagues are working on translations of the survey with the goal of collecting data in Chile, Hungary, Indonesia, Lithuania, Mexico, and Ukraine.

  To get involved, or to learn more about this study, contact the Principal Investigator: Bob Ives, University of Nevada, Reno USA, at