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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Exploration of academic integrity

Published: April 28, 2006
Section: Opinions

The culture and atmosphere of Brandeis can be utterly exhilarating. The discourse on issues from politics to spirituality, even sex, demonstrates intellect and freedom at its most meaningful level. Controversial and sensitive issues can be better understood if elevated into the light of public discussion. Our campus media often does publish pieces and stories that seem designed to create attention and controversy. One topic that should be explored with more openness on our campus is academic integrity. Sure, it lacks the sexiness of dancers clad only in latex, or dramatic legal entanglements but it is the number one offense on the campus of Brandeis University. That has to be shocking enough to get our communitys attention.

All of us at Brandeis enjoy the opportunity to study and work with current and future leaders in their chosen fields. It would be heartbreaking to discover such great individuals accomplished their goals by engaging in dishonest acts, altering their work to achieve a desired result, or plagiarized the thoughts and words of someone else. Outside of our campus it is also chilling to think that a surgeon cheated on her exams, or an engineer bought his degree by purchasing term papers online, and is now building a bridge thousands will drive across each day.

Many students with whom I have spoken during my time getting to know Brandeis have shared their perception that academic dishonesty is happening all around them. In 1999-2000 a survey conducted by the Center for Academic Integrity found, that of 9 college campuses with similar conduct codes to Brandeis, 45% of students surveyed admitted to acts of academic dishonesty. A 2002-2003 survey conducted by the same organization, found that of 2,500 faculty surveyed, 45% had ignored a suspected incident of cheating due to feelings of helplessness and being overwhelmed by the scope of the problem.

Academic Dishonesty and plagiarism happens in residence halls, libraries, and classrooms. These violations of our core values often involve technology in the form of cell phones, or the Internet. Others cheat with tools as simple as a sheet of notes left in a bathroom stall.

It is known that Brandeis students work exceptionally hard and many achieve great things academically and socially during their time as a student. It is ironic that this positive ethic of achievement can contribute to incidents of plagiarism and cheating.

Academic dishonesty is not just committed by those unfamiliar with proper citation guidelines or those new to college and unprepared for the rigors of higher education.

Upper class students have demonstrated that individuals are never too seasoned not to fall into this trap. Too many all-nighters, substance abuse, stress, the pressure to get in to that perfect grad school, and hesitation to reach out for assistance, are all factors that can motivate an individual to engage in academic dishonesty.

Like the incidents of covered smoke detectors weve read and heard about on-campus, academic dishonesty impacts not only the accused individual, but also Brandeis University as a whole. An atmosphere where academic dishonesty is occurring can make a student distrustful of the work of her peers when engaged in group assignments. Roommates and friends must worry that a term paper left out on a desk might be copied and turned in to a professor to satisfy someone elses academic responsibilities. Tests and exams may become more difficult for students, and cumbersome to administer for faculty. When academic dishonesty is occurring the sense of trust between students, and in the classroom from instructors is altered.

So, we know academic dishonesty is going on- what do we, as a community, do about it? I turn to you, the students, to answer that question. Administrators program, meet, talk with students, educate ourselves, and create plans of action, but without the support of the student body we can only chip away at the problem.
As we approach the end of the academic year with final exams and projects looming, I invite Brandeis students to talk openly with each other about this issue and the impact academic dishonesty has had, or potentially has, on their futures. Nothing less than the futures of our students, the reputation of the University, and the development of character in the greater society are at stake.

April 24th-28th is Academic Integrity Week at Brandeis featuring passive programming through flyers and published editorials in the hopes of creating a long-term awareness week project in the future.

Erika Lamarre, Director of Student Development and Conduct