Academic Integrity: Living Up to Scholarly Responsibilities

By Peter Connor

The beginning of the semester is a great time to address the issue of academic integrity with your students. The murky part, of course, is communicating the message effectively.

Bill Taylor, a professor of Political Science at Oakton Community College in Illinois, did it by writing an open letter to his students, based upon ideas contained in the first draft of "The Fundamental Values of Academic Integrity," a project developed at Clemson University's Center for Academic Integrity.

The letter covers a lot of ground, out of which I have created a number of Teaching Tips that you will find indexed under TILT’s Related Tips in the right-hand column.

In the tip below—Section VI of the letter—Taylor concludes with remarks regarding living up to the responsibilities academic integrity imposes on both him, and his students.

He also suggests to his students that they familiarize themselves with Oakton's Code of Conduct. Colorado State University's Student Conduct Code can be found on the Division of Student Affairs Web site.

Section VI: From Bill Taylor’s "A Letter to My Students"

In all of the areas listed above, I will do my best to live up to my responsibilities. If you feel I’ve failed to do so, you have every right to call me on it. If you do, I have a responsibility to give you respectful consideration. If you feel that I do not do these things, you have the right (and I would say the responsibility) to bring this to the attention of my dean.

At the same time, I have a right to expect that you will live up to your responsibilities. If I get a sense that you’re not doing so, I consider it a matter of my academic integrity that I call you on it.

Which brings me to the most difficult question with regard to academic integrity; what if you become aware of a fellow classmate who is not living up to the principles of academic integrity, but you sense that I’m not aware of it? What should you do?

I’ll give you the answer, but I’ll acknowledge up front that it’s a hard one. Nevertheless, I would hope that you would at least grapple with it if you are ever confronted with the situation. The answer is that you should say something to that student, and if worse comes to worse, you should tell me. But why?

Academic integrity, as with so much in life, involves a system of interconnected rights and responsibilities that reflect our mutual dependence upon one another. The success of our individual efforts in this course, as with so much in life, depends on all of us conscientiously exercising our rights and living up to our responsibilities. And the failure of any of us—even just one of us—to do what is required will diminish, however slightly, the opportunity for the rest to achieve their goals.

That is why it’s essential for all of us in this class to practice academic integrity, in both senses of the word practice. For practice today will lay a solid foundation for practice tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that, so that through daily practice integrity will come to be woven throughout the fabric of our lives, and thus through at least a part of the fabric of society.

Note: In other sections of his letter (see TILT's Related Tips) Taylor describes the similarity of the responsibilities both he and his students have relative to class preparation and participation, as well as to written assignments, exams and grades.

Sources:

Taylor, B. (n.d.). Integrity: Academic and Political - A Letter to My Students. In Academic Integrity Articles. Retrieved January 9, 2009, from the Clemson University Center for Academic Integrity Web site: http://www.academicintegrity.org/educational_resources/pdf/Letter_To_My_Students.pdf.

Copyright and Permissions:

This Teaching Tip was adapted from "A Letter to My Students," written by William M. Taylor: Political Science Professor—Oakton Community College in Des Plaines, IL.

NOTE: Taylor has granted permission for his letter to be used in any way that is consistent with promoting academic integrity (n.d., p.1).

Contributors:

Peter Connor - TILT Web Content Writer and Editor