Academic Integrity policy to be revamped

By Lauren Kelly

A revised academic integrity policy will greet students when they return to classes this fall.

The new policy has been approved by the College Council, with a stipulation that it be reviewed by the General Council. After that review, it will be approved by President Warrick L. Carter and the board of trustees in coming weeks, and will become official. Still currently in draft form, it can be amended at the next College Council meeting if needed. Though it isn’t vastly different from the current policy, it serves to better clarify the definitions of academic dishonesty and consequences for violating it, according to the Center for Teaching Excellence.

Lott Hill, co-director of the Center for Teaching Excellence, said a way to prevent dishonesty is for faculty to be more involved in the students’ work. Some ways of doing this are having students write more than one draft of a paper, teachers having one-on-one conferences and providing time to talk about issues of academic integrity in the classroom.

The new policy creates a common understanding throughout the college of what academic integrity will mean to Columbia.

“It’s mainly laying out the principles of academic integrity that the college is going to follow,” said Soo La Kim, co-director of the Center for Teaching Excellence.

CTE, a support organization for faculty at Columbia, is now in its 10th year. The center works to provide professional development and a space for faculty to assess their work. It was a main force in the formation of the new academic integrity policy.

Goals for the new policy include students being able to understand how to cite material and why citing is important. It aims to have faculty create assignments in ways that students don’t have an incentive to cheat, leading to more learning and less opportunities to plagiarize.

Open dialogue in the classroom between teachers and students is also an important aim of the new policy.

Hill said it is “the space where it really becomes real. The policy itself, without the classroom, has little context.”

He emphasized the classroom as being a community of trust for students.

“If you build a sense of community of learners in the classroom with students, then I think students have a kind of investment with the collaborative creation of knowledge with one another,” said Karen Osborne, an English Department faculty member who served on the Academic Affairs committee.

The committee hopes this investment in the community will lead to a more open dialogue in the classroom.

“The policy is really intended to help us communicate with students and provide an environment for students where they understand the importance of protecting their own intellectual property, as well as respecting the intellectual property of others,” Hill said.

Although written plagiarism is the most common form of academic dishonesty, it can also happen in more interactive areas of study such as dance, theater and music. Violations in these departments can include students taking sole credit for collaborative work and stealing choreography or music from another student or artist.

“The discipline-specific contexts are really important for faculty to talk about with students,” Kim said.

Despite the more specific clarifications defining academic integrity violations, the policy is not targeted toward punishing those who break the rules.

“It’s not about punishing,” Osborne said. “It’s about paying attention to the way we structure assignments and about helping people learn strategies for entering into the world of academic discourse and becoming more empowered and more confident about using their own voice.”

The Center for Teaching Excellence hosted a workshop for faculty and staff about the new academic integrity policy on Feb. 2. It introduced the policy and new definitions and encouraged potential actions for faculty to take in talking to the students about the new policy.

The second part of the workshop will build on the previous conversation and create more faculty involvement, Kim said.

It will be held Feb. 27 in the Faculty Center, on the 8th floor of the Alexandroff Campus Center, 600 S. Michigan Ave., from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.