Faculty Focus


Promoting a Culture of Academic Integrity

In last Wednesday’s post, Stephen F. Davis, Patrick F. Drinan, and Tricia Bertram Gallant, the authors of the newly released CHEATING IN SCHOOL: What We Know and What We Can Do, recommended steps faculty can take to reduce cheating in their classroom.

In this, the second of a two-part email interview, the authors offer advice to academic leaders on how to create healthy environments that support ethical choices at all levels of the organization.

Faculty Focus: What types of policies and practices do you recommend colleges/universities have in place at the institutional level to promote a culture of academic integrity?

Authors: We recommend that colleges and universities focus on creating healthy ethical environments that support ethical choices at all levels of the organization, rather than simply focusing on stopping students from cheating. Does the campus prioritize ethics and integrity in its resource allocation and mission? Does the campus regularly assess its ethical climate? Does the campus have the structures and processes to support a focus on ethics?

To begin, we recommend the following:

  1. Do not attempt a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Many campuses make the mistake of believing that the implementation of an honor code can solve the problem because they heard that honor codes work on other campuses. The principles behind an honor code can work (i.e., community commitment to upholding academic integrity, student involvement in the process) can be helpful, but the format they eventually take should evolve organically from within the specific organizational context. For example, an honor code would not fit with the culture at UC San Diego, but it might work at a small liberal arts, religious-affiliated college.
  2. Do clearly articulate the values and expectations of the institution and put into place structures and processes that can help those values and expectations be realized. If you state that you value academic integrity, how do the students see that? Is there an academic integrity office or educational program?
  3. Reduce legalism and enhance education. Too many of our campuses have taken a legalized approach to academic integrity and it is simply not necessary and interferes with our ability to make this a part of the educational experience. Take a look at your conduct code from the point of an undergraduate—would YOU be influenced by it to act differently?
  4. Implement a socialization (not orientation) program to help students adapt to the university environment. Many of our students violate academic integrity principles by doing their college academic work in the same ways they completed their high school assignments. Help students make that adjustment.
  5. Provide instructors with the support they need to prevent cheating and address it when they see it. Are instructors provided with sufficient proctors and room size for the size of their class? Is the process for reporting unnecessarily cumbersome and time-consuming? Are faculty subtly “punished” for addressing cheating through their loss of time and poor course evaluations? Does the faculty clearly know their professional obligation to confront cheaters using institutional policies? Are the procedures for doing so clear and not cumbersome?

In chapter 6 of our book we talk extensively about attending to the development of institutional and individual integrity, including ongoing and committed conversations about integrity and the difficulty (and importance) of enacting it in the 21st century.

Davis, S., Drinan, P., & Gallant T. (2009). CHEATING IN SCHOOL: What We Know and What We Can Do. Wiley-Blackwell.

Author Bios:
Stephen F. Davis is Professor Emeritus at Emporia State University (Kansas), Distinguished Guest Professor at Morningside College (Iowa) and Visiting Distinguished Professor of Psychology at Texas Wesleyan University.

Patrick F. Drinan, Professor of Political Science at the University of San Diego, completed his Ph.D. in 1972 at the University of Virginia, and has served as the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of San Diego from 1989-2007.

Tricia Bertram Gallant is the Academic Integrity Coordinator at the University of California, San Diego, and is the current Chair for the Center for Academic Integrity’s Advisory Council.