ACADEMIC INTEGRITY: A commitment to honesty, trust, fairness, respect and responsibility
INTEGRITY is a central, indispensable and defining hallmark of effective higher education institutions.
An institution demonstrates integrity through the manner in which it specifies its goals, selects and retains its faculty, admits students, establishes curricula, determines programmes of research, pursues its fields of service, demonstrates sensitivity to equity and diversity issues, allocates its resources, serves public interest and provides for the success of students (Characteristics Of Excellence In Higher Education published by Middle States Commission on Higher Education, 2002).
Higher education and society grow when colleges have standards of integrity that provide the foundation for a vibrant academic life, promote scientific progress and prepare students as responsible citizens.
Students show their respect by being punctual for class and contributing to discussions
Many institutions, however, have neither defined academic integrity nor expressly committed to it. Others explain academic integrity merely by listing behaviours that are prohibited rather than by identifying values and behaviours to be promoted.
Academic integrity is a commitment, even in the face of adversity, to five fundamental values: honesty, trust, fairness, respect and responsibility (The Fundamental Values Of Academic Integrity published by Centre for Academic Integrity, 1999).
Quest International University Perak has identified the following core values for its staff and students: professionalism, innovation, quality, commitment, teamwork and caring. Professionalism is elaborated as "we are professionals who conduct ourselves with honesty, integrity and are accountable for our actions".
In institutions of higher learning, students, faculty, administrators and all the other stakeholders have to play their roles in promoting academic integrity on campus. The fundamental values of integrity can be described as follows:
Honesty is the basis of all activities conducted in tertiary institutions such as teaching, learning, research and service.
It is also a prerequisite for developing an environment of trust, fairness, respect and responsibility.
Dishonest behaviours such as lying, cheating, theft, plagiarism and fraud diminish the worth of academic degrees and endanger the human rights and welfare of society.
James Campbell in his column in Learning Curve (May 13, 2012) wrote: "Teachers trust in their students and their institutional leadership, and the trust of students in their teachers is critical if innovation, reform and creativity and learning culture are to take root. Trust and what hampers it is a crucial issue for educators."
The institutions have to set clear guidelines and criteria for assessment of students' work and examinations to promote trust.
The institutions need consistency in their academic standards. Researchers should be given confidence that their ideas and work will not be stolen and teachers should be made to believe that their efforts will be duly recognised.
Both students and staff members must be given a fair treatment by their colleagues and administration.
Fairness in evaluation is essential to develop trust and high standards of achievement.
There is no excuse to justify favours or otherwise.
Mutual respect is an emblem of an institution of higher learning. Students, teachers and administrators must respect each other. Differences in opinions cannot be made a reason to show disrespect to anyone. It is a human virtue and should not be perceived as disobedience.
Students show their respect by being punctual for class, being attentive, completing their assignments on time, contributing to discussions and actively participating in the learning activities.
Teachers show their respect by listening to students attentively, appreciating their ideas and work, giving honest and prompt feedback, recognising them as individuals and helping them to achieve their goals.
Safeguarding academic integrity is the responsibility of all -- each student, faculty member and administrator.
In practical terms, it means upholding integrity at the individual level, reporting any misconduct without favour and fear and taking action against wrongdoing.
Members of an academic community should not be involved in any questionable activity and must not tolerate or ignore dishonesty.
The Centre of Academic Integrity at Duke University in the United States recommended that an academic institution should:
1. Have clear academic integrity statements, policies and procedures that are consistently implemented.
2. Inform and educate the campus community regarding academic integrity policies and procedures.
3. Promulgate and rigorously practise these policies and procedures from the top down, and provide support to those who uphold them.
4. Have a clear, accessible and equitable system to adjudicate suspected violations of policy.
5. Develop programmes to promote academic integrity among all segments of the community.
These initiatives should go beyond repudiation of academic dishonesty and include discussions about the importance of academic integrity and its connection to broader ethical issues.
6. Be alert to trends in higher education and technology affecting academic integrity on campus.
7. Regularly assess the effectiveness of its policies and procedures and take steps to improve them.
Alam Sher Malik New Straits Times Online Learning Curve 16 December 2012