The following column by Jim Lee, Academic Integrity Advisor to the Vice-Principal (Academic), appeared in the September 8th edition of the Queen's Gazette:
What is the fundamental mission of a university?
Many would say that the university’s core mission is to contribute to the welfare of society through the education of students and the creation of new knowledge, and in order to define this mission, two major spheres of activity come to mind – teaching and research. Although distinct, these key areas are not mutually independent and share varying degrees of commonality. At the undergraduate level, teaching is predominant, although research clearly complements what is taught in the classroom and students often have hands-on research opportunities through capstone courses or research assistantships. At the graduate level, research is the predominant activity, although graduate students often take advanced courses in specific fields or may be involved in mentorship/internship programs in which they can learn from their peers.
Staff members and administrators support both the teaching and research activities of departments, either directly or indirectly, and teaching and research play equally important roles in the academic responsibilities of faculty members.
Yet, implicit across all of these university levels and pervading all academic activities is a common foundation upon which everything rests – academic integrity (AI). Academic integrity is at the heart of the university’s mission, and the principles of AI form the basis of the academic standards and expectations to which all academic work is held, in both teaching and research. In the evaluation of course work, student submissions are expected to be the original work of the author, with the phrasings and ideas of others properly cited; similarly, in research, all work is expected to be the author’s (or authors’) own, the work of others should be appropriately acknowledged, and findings and results should reflect real observations which have not been fabricated or falsified. Thus, the significance of AI not only speaks directly to the value of a university degree but also speaks to the very quality of the university itself. Indeed, what is a university without academic integrity?
Academic integrity has been a hot topic in the media in recent times. University vice-chancellors and presidents have resigned over findings of plagiarism in their scholarly work, scientific fraud has featured in several high-profile international cases involving the research of professors in science and technology, AI surveys on cheating in U.S. and Canadian universities suggest that more than 50% of students have cheated at least once, and the use of rapidly evolving Internet technologies and social networking sites such as Facebook have also created intense discussion and debate in the university context.
As a leader in post-secondary education, Queen’s is taking steps to raise the profile of academic integrity on campus. Over the last 3 years, the university has made a strong commitment to promoting academic integrity on campus, which has resulted in an number of positive changes. In 2006, Senate adopted an Academic Integrity Statement which espouses the five core values of academic integrity – honesty, trust, fairness, respect and responsibility .
Initiatives by the university, faculties, and schools have transformed (or are transforming) academic-dishonesty policies and regulations to those promoting the principles of academic integrity. In addition, a new university-wide role has been created by the Office of the Vice-Principal (Academic) to raise the awareness and foster a culture of AI – the Academic Integrity Advisor.
To date, our office has launched several initiatives. A new, continuously evolving, university-wide website ( http://www.queensu.ca/academicintegrity/) is intended to serve as a reference and resource site for AI policies and educational tools for both students and instructors. A Queen’s AI Working Group has been formed, consisting of representatives from all Faculties and Schools as well other important stakeholders such as the Centre for Teaching and Learning and the Alma Mater Society. Over the next year, our office will be looking at other new initiatives, such as the potential use of text-matching software in the development and evaluation of written work, and the utility of an introductory AI tutorial for students. We will be seeking your input and feedback on such initiatives.
Those with further thoughts on academic integrity at Queen’s are encouraged to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
James K.W. Lee, P.Eng. is the Academic Integrity Advisor to the Vice-Principal (Academic), Acting Associate Dean in the Faculty of Arts and Science, and a Professor of Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering.