Pete and Academic Integrity

I used to have a lot of energy wrapped up in enforcing academic integrity. I watched everyone closely. I had the following statement on my syllabus:

“Cheating Any form of falsely claiming work to be your own when it is not – using unauthorized aids on an exam, or plagiarizing another person’s work is considered cheating. Campus policy requires that a student who violates academic integrity shall receive an “F” in the course and risks suspension from the university. I have personally sent several cheating situations to Cal Poly administration. Because the penalty for cheating is severe, and because cheating suggests academic or psychological desperation – if you are considering cheating, seek help from myself (for which you will not be penalized), or from the counseling center (746-2511) BEFORE you risk irreparable damage to your career, your reputation, and your self-respect.

Then I joined the SUSTAIN Initiative where (2009 – 2015) faculty, community members, and about 50 freshmen operated as a learning community to explore collaborative learning. I became aware of the way our present education system mimics authoritarian control and oppression that is shown to be detrimental to learning and creativity, and I find damaging to society. Linda Vanasupa (MATE) provided me with her syllabus that only states that the student could count on support from the instructor and that the student takes responsibility for their choices. This collaborative perspective seems healthier and I adopted it, and I do feel this transition improves the class experience for everyone.

I found the change to be a great improvement for years until CRAP! I was quite sure a student copied work on a final exam, and consistent with university policy, I reported it. Until it happened, I wasn’t sure I would report something I found to be cheating. However, if I’m going to report academic dishonesty, I should disclose that I will.

Why did I report a student that I care about? I struggled with it, but it came down to faith in our society: something I’m greatly concerned with in the present national atmosphere of accusations of dishonesty being met with denials and counter accusations of lying and fake news by seemingly all parties involved. Making society work, whether it be driving a car, making a purchase, walking down the street, requires some confidence that things really are as we say they are. I think that it’s the responsibility of everyone in society to teach, practice and defend a priority of honesty and reality.

Lastly, turning in a student for academic dishonesty is a difficult decision for me and most instructors. It requires considerable time, energy, and emotional struggle. I ask that I not have to be put through it again. I find it healthier if a student communicates to me that they are having difficulty with dishonesty, and we accept it as a challenge we can work on together.