administrators begin implementing integrity measures

by Sam Kean

Most students have a standard pre-test checklist: pencils with erasers, a calculator and two blue books.
Now the University is considering adding one more pre-test ritual: signing a form promising academic integrity.
While it is not likely to reach this point, the University is looking into policies requiring students to sign a form as freshmen saying they will not participate in any form of academic misconduct while at the University.
Faculty Consultative Committee Chairman Fred Morrison said the recent men’s basketball scandal prompted the action, but the point of it is to address broader issues of academic conduct.
Academic integrity encompasses a number of issues, from cheating on tests and plagiarism to falsifying research data.
The recommendation for the academic integrity statement was in a report approved, in principle, by the University Senate — a student-faculty governing body — last spring.
When it was originally recommended, some faculty questioned the student statement for the wording and the frequency with which it would be applied.
While acknowledging student misconduct is not rampant, the report called for students to sign a statement reading, in part, “I promise to practice (academic integrity) to the best of my ability.”
The statement would also acknowledge that students understand penalties for violating the policy. According to the report, students should reaffirm this pledge on each test and paper.
University Executive Vice Provost Craig Swan said there is widespread support for having students sign an agreement, but the document’s wording remains a source of debate.
Also, the frequency of such reminders has not been decided, but students will most likely be required to sign only upon enrollment. Other possibilities include placing reminders in class syllabi or sending them out every semester.
Some universities employ an honor code requiring students to turn in other students if they see evidence of cheating. The impending University code probably will not include such a provision, Morrison said.
At least one student leader thinks the policy will be ineffective.
“Students are going to cheat regardless of whether or not they sign an honor code,” said Minnesota Student Association president Matt Clark.
He said he wants to see results before MSA decides to support the provision.
The spring report also called for establishing an Office of Academic Integrity, a task already underway.
This office would provide education for students and faculty members concerning student cheating, as well as handle allegations and proceedings if a student is accused of cheating. An interim director will be named soon.
The Office of Academic Integrity would only handle student academic misconduct. For faculty members, the Board of Regents’ conduct policy outlines standards for academic integrity in research, scholarly work and classroom environment, and each faculty member is expected to understand and be familiar with all parts of the policy.
However, faculty members do not have to sign anything, which upsets some people.
Former MSA president Ben Bowman said some students feel this policy presumes guilt. Holding professors to the same standard seems reasonable, he added.
University Vice Provost for Research Victor Bloomfield said all new faculty members receive several hours of training for honesty in research and scholarly work, but said no program exists for training about academic integrity.
However, all faculty members received a copy of the regents’ conduct policy with their Sept. 20 paycheck.
Bloomfield reported there are no plans underway to have faculty sign any statements.
Swan, though, pointed to a University of Illinois policy that will be considered by the Senate Committee on Faculty Affairs.
When a candidate passes tenure review at Illinois, instead of receiving a letter that starts, “Congratulations, you have been awarded tenure,” faculty members now receive a letter starting, “Congratulations, I am pleased to offer you tenure if you agree to accept the following responsibilities that go with it.”
In this case, faculty are required to sign and return a statement about professional ethics and responsibility.

Sam Kean covers faculty and welcomes comments at skea[email protected]. He can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3212.