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Committee on Academic Integrity completes research, seeks University community input through open forums
Committee on Academic Integrity completes research,seeks University community input through open forumsApril 04, 2005Edward Byrnesedbyrnes@syr.edu
The Vice Chancellor and Provost’s Committee on Academic Integrity (VPCAI) has completed the research phase of its work and will now begin soliciting input from the University committee on its findings. The VPCAI will conduct two open forums to receive input and suggestions from the Syracuse University and SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry community. The first will be Wednesday, April 6 from 4-5:30 p.m., in Rooms 202 and 204 of the Physics Building; the second will be April 20 from 7-8:30 p.m., in Room 107 of the Hall of Languages.
The committee was convened during the Fall 2004 semester by Vice Chancellor and Provost Deborah A. Freund to assess the current state of academic integrity at SU and to make recommendations and suggestions for improvement, if necessary.
“The input we receive from the university community is absolutely critical to the committee’s work,” says Elet Callahan, chair of the VPCAI and associate professor of law and public policy in the Martin J. Whitman School of Management. “The forums will help us learn more about campus attitudes concerning academic integrity and identify areas-from sanctions to educational programs-that may need to be addressed.”
The research goals of the VPCAI were to collect survey data from current graduate and undergraduate students, TAs and faculty, then compare these data to data from other post-secondary institutions; review academic integrity policies from each of SU’s schools and colleges; review academic integrity policies and procedures from comparable institutions; and investigate best practices. The VPCAI’s research report addressing these topics is available for review by the University community on MySlice, the University’s online information portal, at http://myslice.syr.edu .
An online survey was administered in November to participating SU and ESF faculty, teaching assistants and students by the Center for Academic Integrity, a national consortium of more than 320 institutions affiliated with the Kenan Center for Ethics at Duke University. Data collected from the survey were compared with data from other post-secondary institutions and are now available to the University community to help educate and inform further discussion.
Among the noted findings of the survey, 74 percent of SU undergraduate students and 42 percent of SU graduate students, when given a list of 20 cheating behaviors, indicated that they had engaged in one or more of those behaviors during the past year. That figure is consistent with rates at other universities that took the same survey, as well as academic research showing that, on average, 70 percent of college students cheat.
The most common forms of cheating are by participating in unauthorized collaboration with other students and by paraphrasing without citing. Students say they are least likely to have turned in a paper obtained from a paper mill or web site, or to have submitted someone else’s work.
Cheating rates were found to be comparable among sophomore, junior and senior undergraduates; the results from first-year students are inconclusive, because the survey was administered during their first semester on campus and had asked about conduct during the past year.
Although students appear to be well informed about the University’s current policies and most do not believe cheating is a serious problem on campus, faculty believe differently. Nearly half of SU and ESF faculty say it is a serious problem.
The survey return rate for students was 17 percent (3,331 respondents), 28 percent for faculty (497 respondents) and 18 percent for teaching assistants (132 respondents). These response rates are above the means reported by the Center for Academic Integrity for administration of this survey at large universities.
“The committee has gathered a great deal of information about academic integrity at SU. Now we need to put that information to work for the betterment of the University, our faculty and our students,” says Callahan.
On the basis of its research, the VPCAI is charged to develop recommendations to facilitate upholding the highest ideals of academic integrity. The committee is considering whether there should be greater coordination among schools and colleges regarding academic integrity policies and procedures, and expects to make recommendations in the following areas:
- Awareness strategies for faculty, TAs and students on academic integrity in general and relevant university and school/college policies in particular;
- educational strategies for avoidance of academic dishonesty by students;
- educational strategies for full and part-time faculty and TAs for creating an environment that supports academic integrity;
- instructional resources and services for students and faculty, such as tutorials and workshops on proper use of references and other academic integrity issues, to be provided by the library and other relevant departments;
- creation of a clearinghouse of materials on academic integrity, via the Web and/or in print, to help the SU community stay current with trends and issues;
- enhanced communication among schools and colleges regarding proven cases of academic dishonesty; and
- assessment of new policies, procedures and programs to measure the effectiveness of the changes.
“The committee has compared SU policies to more than 20 other colleges and universities, seeking the best practices to bring to SU, we have reviewed the academic literature on academic integrity and we have reviewed the policies of the schools and colleges here,” says Callahan. “Now that this information is in front of us all, we’re asking members of the University community for their thoughts and opinions.”
The VPCAI seeks to initiate a University-wide discussion of its findings and receive feedback in preparation for developing these and other recommendations. Callahan stresses that the goal of the VPCAI is to create a culture in which academic integrity is valued by all.
The VPCAI has provided a report to the Vice Chancellor summarizing its research. At the end of this year, it will submit a progress report including a timeline and proposed activities for the 2005-06 academic year.
A VPCAI Web page provides information about the committee’s activities, membership, SU school/college policies, resources for further information and an opportunity for comments at http://provost.syr.edu/integrity_summary.asp .