Ubuntu, the South African practice valuing collective humanity has been on my mind a lot these days. A 2020 article linking the practice to academic integrity really resonates with me. The authors describe the value in the Zimbawean context as "responsibility, honesty, justice, trustworthiness, hard work, integrity, a cooperative spirit, solidarity and devotion to family and the welfare of the community". The authors surmise that the common phrasing of the term translated to mean “You are because I am, and I am because we are” is an important educational perspective when considering preventing academic misconduct.

I was thinking about how I might better support my graduate students to do their best work in service to their research interests, and how that relates to issues of contract cheating and plagiarism. In a recent study of contract cheating providers I realize that while I find their practices  predatory, they are on to something I have not fully addressed in my work. Fear, loneliness, loss, and hurt are often exploited. There is time for critical feedback around procrastination, consistency, and quality. But critical feedback without community care erodes trust. The erosion of trust leads to behaviors that are self serving. We have all known and felt desperation. We can stand in the space where these feelings lie.

It reminds me that we must do the best we can with what we have in service to our academic communities. That where we can, we extend grace to each other. That we remind ourselves that accountability can be restorative. Ubuntu. That collectively, we are stronger than individually, and that in spite of undesirable behaviors we remain one academic community. Our collective resources and ideas can be transformational. I like to think that when we teach students about acknowledging the work of others, that we show these ideals as well. Academic integrity provides the language for use to actively honor the contributions of others, and to make room for new interpretations. That we can set expectations for ourselves and others and be open that those expectations may be met in new and creative ways. Ubuntu.

It may seem as though no matter how much is written or explained our perspectives are not clear. We are all worn thin. We are exhausted, and it is frustrating. Misunderstandings abound. We thought we were ready to return to normal, but normal as we understand it ceases to exist. Faculty and practitioners do their work in multiple modalities, focusing on recovery and restoration, sometimes feeling as if they and their work aren’t valued, as if a pandemic weren’t occurring. Students juggling family, work, loss, fear, and struggle and mental unease don’t know where to turn, but they aren’t turning to those who can give the most help. Somewhere along the line, those interactions became too difficult. Cultural values provide a glimpse into how we can educate and support in ways that resonate with an increasingly diverse student population

For many this is the time of year where final papers are due and, where students are scrambling. Faculty are tired, Staff are tired, and students are tired too. May we all be reminded that our work and our efforts are in service to each other, and that our collective, authentic contributions are better together. That sometimes, education is meeting the basic and immediate need a student has before they can begin to form understanding. Our academic communities deserve mutual trust, grace, and integrity.