January 2021

For academic integrity practitioners across the globe, incidents of reported academic misconduct were likely higher in the previous semester. If you thought you were alone, a quick Google News alert will send you multiple emails a week detailing other institutions’ struggles with academic misconduct rates. For faculty, students, and practitioners this was a frustrating semester. While no stakeholder is to blame–this was an unprecedented pandemic–it can be argued that stakeholders failed to work together to get through this time of crisis. Looking forward, what steps can be taken in the new year to increase collaboration and cooperation with our campus partners?

  1. Review faculty strategies: You may have seen which approaches worked and which were less successful. If there were specific strategies that made a positive impact on student behavior, make sure you share them. Faculty across departments don’t always interact, but you may know some tips and tricks that cross departmental lines and can assist faculty campus-wide.
  2. Manage student interventions: If you have any interventions for students in the coming months, review their implementation in a remote environment. If they prove unhelpful, maybe the intervention should be shelved pending a return to in-person coursework. Evaluate the content programming you are providing and make adjustments as needed.
  3. Communicate clearly: Send out expectations, tips, tricks, and reminders at key points throughout the term. See if you can tag on to an existing newsletter or campus publication to help students uphold their integrity without inundating their inboxes.
  4. Adjust your expectations: You may be busy closing cases that occurred during final exams, but faculty and students are eager to start the new term and move forward. Embrace this term. You may continue to have an increased caseload this semester, but you can make it through this one too!

While there may be a few more hiccups as we navigate remote, distance, and hybrid learning models, there is also hope that the return to “normal” is fast approaching. 

Happy New Year and welcome back to the first 2021 semester! 2020 was a hard year, and many institutions had to adapt and respond to altered classrooms and additional integrity concerns. 2021 brings hope for the return to in-person learning and more experience in digital delivery. There are some exciting opportunities with the ICAI heading your way:

  1. ICAI Virtual Book Club
    The Content Committee will be hosting a book club from January – April. We are going to be reading Phillip Dawson’s new book: Defending Assessment Security in a Digital World. If you are interested in joining our virtual book club, please register at Register Now Registered members will receive a question guide written by the author to enhance your reading experience, and the opportunity to meet with him in April 2021 to discuss the book. We look forward to reading with you!
  2. Virtual Conference 2021
    The ICAI is going digital for its annual conference! Looking to submit a presentation? The deadline for submission is this Friday. Don’t forget to register and join your fellow academic integrity community. More information on presentation submission and conference registration can be found at Annual Conference.
  3. McCabe Survey
    Find out how your students feel about academic integrity on your campus. Join the international McCabe survey. If you want to get involved, fill out the form found here or email .
  4. Timely Webinars
    Join us for a live webinar on timely topics related to academic integrity. Webinars lists upcoming topics and lets you register for these insightful conversations.

We look forward to a year of new content and more opportunities to work with you!

As the academic integrity administrator on your campus, you get a call from an upset parent who states that their student has been accused of cheating in one of his courses, and that the instructor has threatened to fail him. Without a report, and only what the parent is sharing with you, you work to try and explain the process of adjudicating academic dishonesty on your campus. The parent states that the instructor does not intend on filing a report and goes on to outline other issues that their student has experienced in this class. You explain that without a report, there is not much that you are able to do and suggest that their student contact the instructor. The parent shares that they have tried calling the instructor and the department, but this is the only office that has returned their call. The parent and student both feel that they are being treated unfairly, and they want to know what other options they have, and if anyone can help them to discuss the issue with the instructor. 

For many academic integrity administrators, this parent situation may be too familiar. Administrators can find themselves spending a lot of time managing multiple parties (parents, students, instructors, chairs) and attempting to facilitate dialogue. At Michigan State University, our All-University Integrity of Scholarship and Grades policy requires that if a faculty member implements a penalty grade in response to academic dishonesty, they must also submit an Academic Dishonesty Report (ADR). With a report, the student would be able to understand the allegation and contest the finding through an Academic Grievance Hearing Board. Additionally, the ADR creates a way for the university to identify subsequent allegations and potential trends. 

However, even though our policies and procedures spell out how things should go, we find ourselves educating stakeholders of our policies and procedures until we’re blue in the face. With a steady increase of academic dishonesty reporting, it is easy to feel inundated with balancing both process and holistically supporting student success. Our institution has a unique history of collaboration with the Ombudsperson’s office, which has helped support students and our academic grievance process immensely. The Ombudsperson’s Office can provide confidential and informal guidance to assist  students, faculty members, and administrators to identify ways to engage with these issues outside of formal hearing processes.  As we all know, students who feel heard and supported are more likely to engage and learn from the adjudication process. 

What is an ombuds?

You likely have an ombuds on your campus. An organizational ombuds serves as a designated neutral within an organization and can help individuals or groups to resolve conflicts or explore options to address concerns. They can be found on college and university campuses, as well as corporations and nonprofit organizations. Ombuds listen, provide advice and referrals, and some can help to resolve disputes through mediation or shuttle diplomacy. Additionally, ombuds operate by the International Ombudsman Association’s standards of confidentiality, neutrality, independence, and informality. Additional information on the ombuds role can be found here: https://www.ombudsassociation.org/what-is-an-organizational-ombuds.

 Each ombuds will work a little bit differently, and while some are able to serve the entire campus community, others may be limited to specific constituencies. For example, some ombuds will only work with student concerns, some work only with faculty or staff. You may have one ombuds or multiple on your campus. Partnering with a student facing ombuds, however, can be helpful as you navigate concerns. 

The Ombudsperson’s office on our campus is often the first point of contact for students who have been accused of academic misconduct. It serves as a place where they can discuss their concerns, explore the process, and decide how they would like to engage. The Ombudsperson can assist students in preparing to speak with their instructor regarding the issue, how to most appropriately reach out to the Department Chair or point them to resources in order to prepare for a formal hearing. It is important to note that the Ombudsperson does not engage in formal processes, nor does the ombuds serve as an advocate for any involved parties. 

Approaches to academic integrity should be collaborative and include partners from across campus. The unique nature of academic misconduct provides an opportunity to engage with your ombuds if you have not already done so. Academic integrity processes often bridge the gap between academics and formal adjudication processes, leaving room for misunderstanding and frustration. Collaborating with your campus ombuds creates a strong partnership that supports academic success.  



Jake Kasper works in the Office of the Dean of Students at Michigan State University.

Ryan Smith serves as the Assistant University Ombudsperson at Michigan State University.