Academic Integrity: Who Gives a $@#%?

Source: Pixabay @ Pexels

It’s the first class of the new school year and you’re strategically

sitting down in the front row to get a good view of the screen. Armed with four different colours of pens, a colour coded binder and a notebook that wouldn’t bleed through, you are ready to ace this class. The professor walks in and your eyes lock with theirs. You scan them over and try to analyze what they are looking for, so that you can get that A+.

“Alright, heard that they aren’t really big on class participation and doesn’t seem like it. But I’ve also heard that they’re really anal with citations and whatnot. Apparently they took 5% off someone’s paper because they forgot a colon in their footnote. UGH!“

The professor goes full screen on their presentation and you activate your muscles to capture everything that will be said and shown in the next hour. But before that, they switch to a slide that seems all too familiar after your 3 years of undergraduate education. You glance over the heading of the slide:


Source: Pixabay @ Pexels

Ah. You sigh in annoyance as a final year student who has read all your syllabi from cover to cover, and knows how to cite a book with no author (but multiple editors) in MLA, APA and Chicago. “Alright, I get it. Cite your source, don’t cheat and don’t make up anything. Can we please just get to the material so that we can end this class and get lunch?”

But is that really all there is to academic integrity apart from the usual?

Academic integrity is often touted as a framework of rules which police students and their work. It can bring about a sense of fear, anxiety and stress for students who may not be familiar with the term.

We all know the consequences of being academically dishonest. They range from getting a 0 on a quiz, to failing the entire class and, worst of all, getting expelled from the university with a notation that you were academically dishonest on your transcript. All of these possibilities disincentivize students from cheating and, hopefully, encourage students to honestly produce their best work.

But is academic integrity just about knowing how to get through a system so that you would not face any dire consequences? How does “integrity” outside of academia differ from “academic integrity”?

As part of our ongoing efforts to revamp the Academic Integrity component of the Learning Commons website, Flint and I spoke to our peers on campus to find out what comes to their mind when they think of “academic integrity.”

We notice that when we first asked the question “what is integrity?”, we were greeted with responses that were often abstract and value-based. Words like “honesty”, “potential” and “passion” immediately popped up when we started the conversation. However, when we added the term “academic” to the same question, the responses immediately shifted to a series of hard rules and don’ts. Our peers responded with the the academic protocol of  “not cheating,” “citing your sources” and “producing your own work.”

It was interesting to note the differences between how the two questions were answered. What is it about having the term “academic” dropped into the question that causes people to tense up and immediately spit a set of rules?

In the latest episode of in[Tution], Flint and I evaluated further the responses of our peers. We dived deeper into questioning how does “academic integrity” differ from “integrity” that we practice outside of the institution? Shouldn’t the concept of “integrity” look all the same regardless of the scenario it is applied to? Why don’t some us don’t exactly think of it as the same?

For more information, check out our Academic Integrity page on the topic and Flint’s blog post on the Golden Rules of Academic Integrity.

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