In thinking about your policy, some questions may come to mind:

  • When was your academic misconduct policy last revised?
  • Who was involved in the revision process?
  • How many stages of reviewing took place?
  • What new elements were introduced that were not previously considered in the earlier version?
  • Were the changes related to process?
  • Were they focused on updating language to make it more accessible?
  • Were they to modernize the policy?
  • How often should we review academic misconduct policies?
  • What makes for revisions that are well informed?
  • What makes for revisions that are well received by the campus community?
  • How do you create buy-in from stakeholders when considering revisions?

Whether your policy was revised quite some time ago, perhaps within the last year, or maybe you are going through the revision process right now, I encourage you to think about your approach to completing these revisions.

Over the last two years, I have thought a lot about what goes into an academic integrity policy. Not only are we currently exploring revisions to the Honor Code for Emory College of Arts & Sciences, but this was the topic for an article that I co-authored with Christian Moriarty (St. Petersburg College) for the special edition of the Journal of College and Character titled: “Justice and Consistency in Academic Integrity: Philosophical and Practical Considerations in Policy Making.”

In our research, we developed a framework to analyze how the values of justice and consistency collide in the way we shape our academic integrity policies.

Consistency is the value of dependability, reliability, stability, even uniformity. The more consistent our process is, and consistent the outcome from the process is, the more all stakeholders can rely upon stability and trust in the system, the more likely it will be respected and followed.

Justice is the value of evenhandedness, righteousness, reasonableness, and getting a fair shake. The more just our process, through such things as proportionate punishments that align with the violation, through students and faculty alike being heard, through community values being considered, through recognition of bias and privilege and reducing their harms, we arrive at a more just result.

Often, these two values are in conflict with one another, and concessions must be made in policy formulation, but to what end? As professionals and practitioners in the academic integrity bubble, we must dance the fine line of the two to ensure our policies are not imbalanced.

In practice, I have been able to consider how the values of justice and consistency weigh into the policy that we are working to revise. In exploring these two values, it led me to think about how we use language in our current policy. Using accessible language can lead to a process that is more approachable and break down barriers for students. While our revisions will not be substantive changes that reshape how we resolve instances of academic misconduct, it did create an opportunity to think carefully about the language we use in our policy to further embed the value of justice in our policy and our process.  

I encourage you to join us in exploring the common features and key stakeholders, how they support (or distract) from a policy’s ability to embody the values of justice and consistency, and directing the conversation towards solutions to these challenges and their limitations. As we present our research on Tuesday, March 8 at 3:00pm, we hope to bring awareness to the importance of reviewing academic integrity policies in the context of our respective institution’s values to improve them for the students impacted by them.