In the buildup to the October 17 International Day for Action Against Contract Cheating, President of the International Center for Academic Integrity (ICAI), Dr. David Rettinger, has identified academic dishonesty as a worldwide concern in institutions of learning.
The Associate Professor of Psychological Sciences at the University of Mary Washington (UMW) in Fredericksburg, Virginia, delivered the first Academic Integrity Lecture for the 2018/2019 school year on September 21.
At the video conference viewed mostly by first-year students, he said that current research shows that likely cheater profiles reflect students at both ends of the academic spectrum, and therefore anyone could actually cheat by choice.
His presentation explored the root causes of academic dishonesty, including internalized values from the society, family or social ties, attitudes towards school, neutralizing attitudes which cancel moral beliefs, and situational factors. He stressed the critical roles faculty and staff play in helping students understand not only the pedagogical lessons of mistakes but also the unpleasant consequences of dishonest behaviors.
“Don’t assume students understand what’s expected,” he stressed.
He also gave insights into the student-run honor system at UMW to explain how students, with guidance from mentors, take charge of academic integrity matters and ensure that those who violate the integrity code are first taken through corrective steps to help them understand what they did wrong. Such measures include taking an online integrity course, and attending tutorials on ethical conduct. However, he added that repeat offenses are treated with the severity that they deserve. He also suggested that faculty should have realistic expectations of students, make assignments hard to cheat on and encourage the acculturation of core values.
The Writing Center and the Judicial Affairs unit of AUN Student Affairs, co-organizers of the event, also shared how AUN builds integrity awareness and compliance among students.
The Center’s Director, Ms. Emilienne Akpan, said the event is a reminder to students about the role of integrity in not just their academics, but also their entire lives.
“Besides, at AUN, integrity is a core value; so this is just another way of reinforcing its importance.”
AUN is a member of ICAI, and Ms. Akpan is passionate about students maintaining their integrity, and pride in doing the right thing at all times, especially after graduation.
“When they have internalized this value, it will not be difficult to make the right decisions. So at that point where one is tempted to take the wrong turn for expediency, integrity will be the radar and strategy for ethical conduct.”
Director of Judicial Affairs, Mbursa Gwany, said the practice of inviting guests for lectures on integrity started two years ago, and will continue every semester. He said the quality of questions students asked during the session is an indication that they are eager to learn more about the scope of academic integrity, as well as the causes and implications of academic dishonesty.
A student-attendee, Emmanuel Alakunle of the Natural & Environmental Science program, said the guest lecturer hit home with how plagiarism is a high academic infraction. “Besides this, he clearly stated how students could avoid plagiarism by thinking critically and avoiding over-reliance on secondary sources. These are some of the thoughts he will be taking away from the video conference.
On October 17, AUN will once again join many institutions worldwide to mark the third International Day for Action Against Contract Cheating.
Reported by Omorogbe Omorogiuwa