Principle and Integrity in the Academy

March
2004
Leon Marzillier, Relations with Local Senates Committee Chair

The approach of April 15 seems to be an appropriate time to address questions of integrity. Most of us attempt to file tax returns as favorable to us as possible. within the rules. It is when we stretch or break the rules for personal gain that we must question our own integrity. On the campus and in the classroom, our personal integrity is the foundation of the integrity of our profession. And it is the faculty, through modeling and encouragement, who ought to foster integrity in our students.

The ethics of our profession has been a topic taken very seriously since the foundation of the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges. In 1988, the Senate adopted the American Association of University Professors' Ethics Statement, and in 1994, the paper: Faculty Ethics: Expanding the AAUP Ethics Statement. In 2002, an even more expanded paper was adopted: Faculty as Professionals: Responsibilities, Standards and Ethics, in Response to a 1998 Resolution: "Therefore be it resolved that the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges direct the Executive Committee to develop a model for an ethics and professional standards process and committee structure to recommend to local academic senates to help them implement the Academic Senates paper Faculty Ethics: Expanding the AAUP Ethics Statement." All three of these documents are available on the Academic Senate's website (www.academicsenate.cc.ca.us/Publications/Papers/ethics.html), and include useful information about college academic senates' adopting ethics statements, dealing with faculty-to-faculty conflict, and making sure integrity is upheld in our classrooms.

Faculty Integrity
The AAUP Statement affirms five areas of faculty responsibility-our disciplines, students, colleagues, institutions, and communities. Briefly, we should keep current in our fields, involve ourselves with our students to ensure their getting the counsel and assistance that they need, while ensuring academic honesty in the classroom, be involved in hiring, evaluation, and college committees, be involved with our institutions in creating a safe, trusting, nonhostile and open learning environment, and act as responsible representatives of our institutions to the community.

Faculty members with grievances against administration are able to use the channels available to them through their collective bargaining agent (CBA). But, if two or more faculty members find themselves in conflict, the CBA cannot be involved since bargaining agents legally represent both parties. In preparation for such eventualities, it would behoove each local academic senate to have adopted (a) an ethics statement, and (b) a process by which such colleague-to-colleague contretemps can be resolved. The Academic Senate's 2002 paper suggests three approaches to such a process: the establishment of a committee, either a Professional Relations Committee (in which each of the faculty members of such a committee is expected to have expertise in the areas of counseling and/or mediation and conflict-resolution as a result of professional training and appointed to serve on this committee by the local academic senate), or a Professional Ethics and Standards Committee set up through the local academic senate, under which the senate appoints college faculty (from a variety of disciplines), who are tenured and well respected on campus to serve as members of this committee; or the local academic senate could confront unethical or unprofessional faculty behavior using procedural mechanisms outlined in local board policy, the local academic senate constitution, or in the local bargaining agreement. We encourage all academic senates to read the above cited papers for more details.

Student Integrity
In October, 1999, the Center for Academic Integrity (a consortium of approximately 200 colleges and universities and 500 individual members from those institutions) published a paper, The Fundamental Values of Academic Integrity. The paper can be read at http://www.academicintegrity.org/pdf/FVProject.pdf.

In the introduction to this paper, it states: "It can be difficult to translate values, even widely shared values, into action-but action is badly needed now to promote academic integrity on our campuses. Researchers agree that rates of cheating among American high school and college students are high and increasing. Donald McCabe of Rutgers University, founder of the Center for Academic Integrity, has found that more than 75% of college students cheat at least once during their academic careers. Particularly alarming is research gathered by Who's Who Among High School Students, indicating that 80% of high-achieving, college-bound students have cheated, that they think cheating is commonplace, and [that] more than half do not consider cheating as a serious transgression."

In their paper, academic integrity is defined as "a commitment, even in the face of adversity, to five fundamental values: honesty, trust, fairness, respect, and responsibility." Whereas, most if not all colleges have written policies extolling the virtues of honesty and not cheating, it is incumbent on all faculty and administration to cultivate an atmosphere and culture of honesty on the campus and in the classroom. This is difficult to achieve when trust is lacking. For example, if students see their peers getting away with dishonest behavior, and faculty and administration are ineffective at policing such behavior, trust in the institution is undermined, and some formerly honest students will see no reason why they shouldn't resort to such behavior themselves, the result being an escalation of dishonesty. For that reason, a college should not only have a written policy on academic integrity, but also create the conditions on the campus whereby such a policy is enforced in a fair and consistent manner.

Lack of respect can also lead to dishonesty. If students find a faculty member relying on the work and ideas of another academician without attribution, they might be led to believe that plagiarism is OK when it comes to their own work. To quote from the above paper, "Students and faculty must respect themselves and each other as individuals. All must show respect for the work of others by acknowledging their intellectual debts through proper identification of sources."

Finally, everyone, students, faculty, classified staff, and administrators must take responsibility for upholding academic integrity on the campus. This means exposing dishonest behavior, not ignoring or condoning it. Peer pressure might make a student reluctant to turn in another student, or likewise faculty members one of their peers. But abdication of such responsibilities can also foster a climate of dishonesty on the campus. As the authors of the above paper note, "Blaming, blaming, blaming!! Many faculty blame lack of integrity on student apathy. Many students blame faculty for not upholding policy. Both don't uphold their own responsibilities out of fear or lack of trust in the other group. Each group needs to uphold its own responsibility and do it well, without making excuses, for academic integrity to truly flourish."

We encourage you to attend the Senate's upcoming Spring Session at which we will be exploring these ideas in more depth at one of the breakouts.

The articles published in the Rostrum do not necessarily represent the adopted positions of the academic senate. For adopted positions and recommendations, please browse this website.