Intercom Online......September 14, 2000

Deans endorse University policy on academic integrity

By Alan Janesch
Public Information

Penn State's new policy on academic integrity has been strongly endorsed by Penn State's Council of Academic Deans (CADS).

A statement from CADS, presented publicly earlier this month by John A. Dutton, dean of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences and chair of CADS, said the deans "strongly support efforts to enhance academic integrity at Penn State. We will provide individual and collective leadership to strengthen further the University's commitment to the highest standards of academic integrity."

"Academic integrity is a fundamental value at Penn State," said Dutton said at a Sept. 1 luncheon meeting of deans, administrators, University Faculty Senate leaders, faculty, staff and students. "It must be at the heart of all our endeavors and must guide our actions every day."

The policy more clearly defines what cheating is in an era where students now routinely work in groups and use the Internet to gather and share information. It also gives the faculty in each of the University's academic colleges a major role in dealing with academic dishonesty and spells out more clearly the penalties for cheating. It also encourages students to work collaboratively with faculty to create an environment that more strongly supports academic honesty.

The new policy became effective this semester. John Cahir, vice provost and dean for undergraduate education, described the luncheon meeting as the "public launching" of an effort that began about two years ago.

The theme of the Sept. 1 meeting was "raised expectations and a raised awareness" of academic integrity issues and policies, Cahir said. The major role assigned to the colleges by the new policy reflects the University's belief that the pursuit of academic integrity is largely a "teaching function," Cahir said.

Executive vice president and provost Rodney Erickson said it is extremely important that Penn State take a strong stand on academic integrity.

"Universities are places that must be built on a firm foundation of academic integrity," he said.

The new policy was developed by a joint committee consisting of faculty, administrators and staff, and adopted in March by the Faculty Senate (Intercom, March 13). The joint committee was chaired by Cara-Lynne Schengrund, the new chair of the Faculty Senate.

Students support the policy, too.

"I think it's great," said Lynn Hendrickson, an undergraduate student majoring in health policy/administration, who represented the students' views and provided input into the policy. "I think it really spells things out."

Hendrickson said the new policy clearly defines what academic dishonesty is and what the penalties are. The previous policy said only, "You're not supposed to cheat, and if you do, you're in trouble," she said.

Under the new policy, academic sanctions (e.g., grades) related to cheating are handled in the colleges, and judicial sanctions (e.g., disciplinary actions such as termination from the University) are handled by the University's Office of Judicial Affairs. Appropriate safeguards for due process and review have been incorporated into the policy. For the first time, records of infractions by students will be kept centrally by Judicial Affairs.

After the Senate adopted the policy in March, the individual colleges worked over the summer to develop college-specific guidelines in harmony with the overall policy. Jeremy Cohen, associate vice provost and professor of communications, said the colleges needed to develop their own guidelines, because an academically honest environment may be substantively different in a literature class, or in a chemistry lab, or in an online study group.

The issue also is complicated by the increasing tendency of students to work in groups, both in and outside of the classroom, and to share information for group presentations.

"More and more, we find students working together, so we'd better make sure the (academic integrity) standards are clear," Cohen said.

"What doesn't work is one hard and fast rule," he added. "What works is an expectation of integrity that recognizes the norms and practices of each discipline and of the University community."

The following statement has been endorsed by President Graham B. Spanier, John A. Dutton, chair of the Council of Academic Deans (CADS), and the following members of CADS:

Cheryl Achterberg, Douglas A. Anderson, John J. Cahir, William G. Cale Jr., Raymond T. Coward, Richard W. Durst, Nancy L. Eaton, Rodney A. Erickson, Frederick H. Gaige, Peter G. Glenn, Madlyn L. Hanes, Darrell G. Kirch, Daniel J. Larson, John L. Leathers, John M. Lilley, Beverly Lindsay, David H. Monk, Judy D. Olian, Eva J. Pell, John J. Romano, James H. Ryan, Karen Wiley Sandler, Robert Secor, Robert D. Steele, James B. Thomas, Susan Welch and David N. Wormley.

The statement follows:

Academic integrity mandates the pursuit of teaching, learning, research and creative activity in an open, honest and responsible manner. An academic community that values integrity promotes the highest levels of personal honesty, respect for the rights, property and dignity of others, and fosters an environment in which students and scholars can enjoy the fruits of their efforts.

Academic integrity includes a commitment neither to engage in acts of falsification, misrepresentation or deception, nor to tolerate such acts by other members of the community. Academic integrity is a fundamental value at Penn State. It must be at the heart of all our endeavors and must guide our actions every day as students and as members of the faculty, administration and staff. Because we expect new and continuing members of the University community to meet the high standards that are the foundation of a Penn State education, this message must be clear and reinforced frequently.

The primary responsibility for supporting and promoting academic integrity lies with the faculty and administration, but students must be active participants. A climate of integrity is created and sustained through ongoing conversations about honesty, trust, fairness, respect and responsibility and the embodiment of these values in the life of the University. Students and faculty should contribute actively to fostering a climate of academic integrity in all their scholarly activities, through discussions in first-year seminars and in other courses, and through involvement in college Academic Integrity Committees. The University community should be continually mindful of the need to preserve academic integrity even as technology changes methods of information access and use.

Colleges will provide all faculty members and teaching assistants information about appropriate ways to promote academic integrity and handle dishonesty cases. Faculty members and graduate assistants must make clear their expectations about academic integrity in every course they teach.

As members of the Council of Academic Deans, we strongly support efforts to enhance academic integrity at Penn State. We will provide individual and collective leadership to strengthen further the University's commitment to the highest standards of academic integrity.

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