Student integrity contracts proposed

Liz Bogut

As early as next fall, students might have to sign a declaration promising not to cheat upon admission to the University.
In addition, students could be required to sign a statement on each blue-book exam guaranteeing they did not cheat on the test and would report any witnessed incidents of academic fraud.
Those were two of the recommendations made Thursday by the Special Senate Committee on Student Academic Integrity. The committee, which has been meeting for several months to discuss academic integrity at the University, made the recommendations in a report to the Senate Consultative Committee (SCC), a faculty-student governing body.
The report will be voted on by the full University Senate on April 20, then proceed to University President Mark Yudof and other administrators for approval.
Although the subcommittee found no reason to believe cheating is an epidemic at the University, members felt officials should take firm action to uphold academic integrity and create a culture that promotes it.
“There is no doubt there is cheating at the University, but it is difficult on any campus to say how much there is,” said Tom Clayton, chairman of the special committee.
Clayton said the committee’s recommendations would provide an integrity code based on signed declarations, rather than an honor system designed and administered solely by students.
Although the Law School, the College of Pharmacy and the College of Natural Resources have adopted student-administered honor codes, Clayton said this is only possible because they are comprised of small, homogeneous student populations.
“The University as a whole is much too large, complex and diverse for that type of honor system,” Clayton said.
Because the declarations are more of a promise than a contract, criminal prosecution would not be an option if a student is found committing academic fraud, Clayton said.
But the report provided guidelines for punitive action against students caught cheating.
“The purpose of signing a declaration is to get students on the record and bring it to their attention that academic integrity is important to the University,” Clayton said.
Aaron Street, an SCC student representative, said signing a declaration would not deter people who already cheat.
“There is no way we can force students to sign them. We’re expecting a certain amount of good will on the part of the students,” Clayton said.
Paula Rabinowitz, an SCC member and English professor, said she does not agree with making students sign a declaration that would require them to expose others if they saw cheating occur.
“To ask people to sign something that says I will notify someone if I see a student cheating is an invasion of privacy,” Rabinowitz said.
The special committee’s report included other recommendations, specifically the creation of an Office of Academic Integrity that would serve four main functions:
ù Promote academic integrity by creating material that explains what cheating is and how to address it, including the creation of a special Web site;
ù Investigate claims of cheating submitted to the office by faculty members and impose penalties if cheating is found;
ù Advise students of their rights and responsibilities when allegations of cheating are made;
ù Receive and investigate allegations of cheating made by any member of the University community.
The Office of Academic Integrity would be headed by an academic integrity officer who would report to the office of the executive vice president and provost.
The special committee also recommended academic integrity be promoted in admission information and student orientations.
A final decision on the matter is not expected before fall semester.

Liz Bogut covers faculty and welcomes comments at [email protected] She can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3217.