New program at UMN aims to promote academic honesty on campus

A University office is expanding a program that allows students to clean their record after committing academic dishonesty.

Natalie Rademacher

The University of Minnesota’s Office of Community Standards is implementing new programs to promote academic integrity on campus. 

This week, OCS, formerly known as the Office of Student Conduct and Academic Integrity, is holding academic integrity week. Various University offices are holding events and workshops throughout the week to promote academic honesty.  

“We want people to understand that academic integrity is important, not just for students, but everybody,” said Jessica Kuecker Grotjohn, assistantdirector of OCS.

The office is also expanding their program, Academic Integrity Matters.

AIM, which started in 2015, gives students a chance to clean their records after committing scholastic dishonesty. The program began offering a similar component to students with nonacademic offenses, like alcohol possession, this fall. 

“The thought behind [AIM is] if a student engages in behavior that is in violation with our policy, we want them to be able to understand the impact of that,” Kuecker Grotjohn said. 

In the program, students who accept responsibility for their actions can talk through their offense with volunteer students and faculty and decide next steps.

Students will have their charges expunged from their records after participating in the program. 

“With AIM, you include people who are impacted in the decision about what happens,” Kuecker Grotjohn said. 

The idea for the program came after Kuecker Grotjohn saw its success in K-12 schools. 

“We have reached a point where the program has become [increasingly] used,” Kuecker Grotjohn said. 

Before AIM, students only had the option to follow sanctions guidelines if caught for scholastic dishonesty.

Sanctions on first offenses are determined by the instructor, usually to the detriment of the student’s grade, Kruecker Grotjohn said.

Students will be placed on disciplinary probation if a second offense occurs, and suspended for a third offense. 

Now, AIM offers first time offenders a chance at redemption. But the program doesn’t apply to students who commit further offenses. 

“A lot of times, if a student is caught cheating, the focus is on punishment … there ought to be a lot more educational approaches,” said Jason Stephens, a University of Auckland professor who researches academic cheating.

Educational programs like AIM help students understand the consequences of their actions, he added.

Stephens encourages a proactive approach to combat cheating.

Creating a culture of integrity on campus is a way to take preventative measures to address the issue, Stephens said.

Undergraduate students are usually less willing to discuss instances of cheating, said Tianlan Wei, a professor of psychology at Mississippi State University, in a study she conducted regarding academic integrity. 

“[Cheating] is going to happen, but these programs can be a way to reduce it,” Stephens said. 

Kuecker Grotjohn hopes the AIM program and campaigns like Academic Integrity Week will help students open up about academic integrity. 

“We want [students] to learn and be accountable. We want them to walk away being a better person,” Kuecker Grotjohn said.