Join the Conversation: Academic Integrity Discussion Topics/Questions
Topic 1: Clarifying the Situation at Hofstra
Comprehensive studies have shown that the level and extent of academic dishonesty at institutions across the United States is very high. The Task Force saw no reason to believe that Hofstra is different in any significant way from schools like us that have good policies but minimal programs for promoting academic integrity. In an effort to develop a more fine grained understanding of the attitudes, practices, and expectations of students, faculty and administrators Hofstra implemented a nationally normed survey instrument to provide a snapshot of our starting point and a baseline against which to measure progress. The results of this survey will be summarized in a report due in October.
Discussion question: The task force asks that groups reflect upon the noted findings, or on any other information provided by the surveys. Specifically, it is interested in hearing whether the data seems surprising whether the information leads discussants to favor particular strategies or courses of action.
Topic 2: Public Discussion of Educational Responses to Academic Integrity Violations
Hofstra has taken the position that we have a responsibility to educate students about the importance of academic integrity, especially when dealing with first offenses for relatively minor violations. Yet, we have no publicly endorsed menu of alternative educational strategies for responding to violations. Individual faculty either develop their own strategies or are forced to rely upon purely punitive responses and hope that they result in future deterrence for the perpetrator and other students. Other institutions have made good use of things like temporary notations on academic transcripts and “boot camp-like” punishments that make our commitment to academic honesty clear but that also provide a student with a path toward renewal and reconciliation with the community. These are ideas that the Task Force thinks should be pursued vigorously.
Discussion question: The Task Force would like to hear groups’ responses to the following ideas
- A proposal to create transcript notations which indicate that a violation of the academic integrity policies has occurred. These notions would have an expiration date and be removed once that date had passed.
- A proposal to establish “boot-camp” workshops where students found guilty of academic integrity violations would have to complete several assignments demonstrating a thorough knowledge of academic integrity standards and participate in discussions with workshop leaders and other students about academic integrity. Once the workshop was successfully completed and after a specified period of time, record of the student’s violation would be removed
- Discussion groups are encouraged to bring to the Task Force’s attention other ideas which would put a student who violated academic integrity policies on a path toward renewal and reconciliation.
Topic 3: Hofstra University Honor Code
Institutions that have tackled academic integrity issues in a comprehensive way frequently adopt some form of honor code. Honor Codes communicate to each new member of a community the level of commitment they can assume when they agree to attend or work at that institution. Honor codes also can serve to remind community members regularly of an institution’s dedication to academic integrity. The Task Force notes that the basic elements of an honor code are already in place at Hofstra. The Pride Principle concerning integrity includes the following pledge: “I will not engage in any activity that will violate the standards of academic integrity and will not tolerate acts of cheating, plagiarism, falsification, forgery, perjury, misrepresentation or dishonesty.” Faculty Policy Series #11, 11a, and 11g as well as the Medical School Bulletin require faculty to act in ways that honor Hofstra’s commitment to academic honesty. The Task Force notes as well, that schools with honor codes have taken a great many different.
Discussion Question: Should Hofstra elevate the pledge to academic honesty already embedded in the Pride Principles to the level of an honor code that is publically affirmed by all members of the community? What would such a change entail? Should Hofstra such a move aim at allowing faculty to relax their use of standard tools to catch cheaters (such as Turnitin.com) as some schools do? What would count as a violation of the code? Would it be a violation to know someone is cheating but not report it? Must there be a uniform interpretation of the code, or could there be differences explained by faculty to students in syllabi etc.?
Topic 4: Faculty/Student Honor Board
Under current Hofstra policy, faculty members dealing with academic integrity violations are required to play several roles during the initial handling of the incident. Metaphorically speaking the faculty member functions as the aggrieved party, the prosecuting attorney, the judge and jury. In an effort to reduce the burden on faculty, and to increase the tendency of faculty to report violations, several institutions have introduced faculty/student honor boards who receive and process complaints submitted by faculty. It has also been suggested that a possible ancillary benefit of such a panel is greater consistency in how violations are handled since the board will be seeing cases from across the university. This may lead to greater confidence among students that the system for handling violations is consistent and fair.
Discussion Question: The Task Force is interested to learn what faculty and students think about establishing a faculty/student honor board that would receive, review and adjudicate academic integrity violations submitted to it by faculty. Would it offer relief to faculty who now shoulder the total burden in the first stages of such cases? Would it therefore make it more likely that faculty will report such incidents? Would it increase student confidence in the system? Are there unintended consequences that need to be taken into account when considering such an idea?
Topic 5: Faculty Workshops/Training/Support in handling incidents of Academic Dishonesty
To date faculty have receive little in the way of direct support, counseling or training in how to handle cases of academic dishonesty when they arise. If we expect faculty to be more active in this area we must do more than outline the policies in FPS 11. The Task Force thinks that lack of attention to this aspect of faculty development has led to significant underreporting of incidents by faculty who are not all convinced the effort is worth the cost pedagogically (in terms of actually affecting behavior) and professionally (in terms of time and energy taken away from other responsibilities). This is a critical issue since failure to pursue and/or report incidents leads directly to a general sense among students and other community members that Hofstra doesn’t take this topic as seriously as it should. More extensive training and a broader menu of supportive resources would give faculty greater confidence when handling such incidents and should lead to an increase in the number reported.
Discussion Question: The Task Force would like to hear from faculty about the kinds of training that would be helpful and the specific types of information that faculty feel they are missing. In addition, we are interested in which among the various delivery system are favored. For example options include traditional face-to-face small group workshops; online tutorials and videos; manuals and other handouts. Other ideas are welcome.
Topic 6: Student Workshops/Training/Resources in how to avoid incidents of Academic Dishonesty
Despite significant attention to the topic of academic integrity, there remains a great deal of confusion among students regarding what constitutes an act of academic dishonesty. While many individual instructors make an effort to raise student awareness on this topic, their instructions would be more effective if they were supplemented and reinforced by a more comprehensive message that students have received elsewhere. Examples of such programs include required first-year workshops on academic honesty, interactive instructional programs and web-based informational sources.
Discussion Question: The Task Force would like to hear from students about the kinds of training that would be helpful and the specific types of information that students feel they are missing. In addition, we are interested in learning which among the various delivery systems are favored. For example, options include traditional face-to-face small group workshops; online tutorials and videos; manuals and other handouts. Other ideas are welcome.
Topic 7: Extending the Conversation: Academic Integrity at Hofstra
Policies, workshops, and programs can only do so much when it comes to raising the visibility of an important issue. The task force is convinced that such efforts should be complemented with an extensive and extended effort designed to highlight the broad commitment of Hofstra students, faculty, and administrators in support of academic honesty. Potential tools used by other institutions include flash screen reminders, posters, short home-grown videos, and guerilla theater events. All of this ought to be seen as an effort to supplement and reinforce a consistent message about what academic honesty entails, and the extent to which this community is committed to it.
Discussion Question: The Task Force is soliciting ideas from the Hofstra community for effective ways to publicize our commitment to academic integrity. All suggestions are welcome from the traditional to the zany.
Topic 8: Hofstra Academic Integrity Resource Site
The task force has undertaken the creation of a Hofstra designed web-based resource that aggregates educational information about academic integrity as well as strategies for handling incidents of academic dishonesty that would be useful for both student and faculty use. It is interested in feedback from groups on the usefulness of the website as well as suggestions for improvements.
Discussion Question: Are there aspects of Hofstra’s Academic Integrity website that you find particularly helpful? If so, which are they? Are there aspects which you find disappointing or unhelpful? All suggestions for additions and improvements are welcome.