It might be said that all of the great professions command a sense of integrity from their members from medicine to service academies to law and law enforcers, to name a few. The field of education is no exception and colleges and universities work hard to ensure the universal sustainability of a value upon which they are built: academic integrity.
According to the Center for Academic Integrity, comprised of 600 members at 220 colleges and universities nationwide, there are five fundamental values that comprise an academic institution of integrity: honor, trust, fairness, respect and responsibility. The Elizabethtown College community strives to uphold these values, as the Pledge of Integrity states, the foundation of the College is mutual trust and respect. Etown’s Pledge of Integrity, defined in 1995, says that students and faculty “will strive to behave toward one another with civility and with respect for the rights of others, and we promise to represent as our work only that which is indeed our own, refraining from all forms of lying, plagiarizing and cheating.”
Integrity is a word that is sacred at Etown. Students sign a document pledging to be honest and uphold integrity upon arrival to the College. Senior and student chair of the integrity committee Dan Silver said, “Integrity is not solely doing what is right but actually believing and understanding one’s actions; holding true and remaining genuine to one’s beliefs and values.”
On the other hand, Etown defines plagiarism as “taking and using the writings or ideas of another without acknowledging the source.” There are different degrees of violation of the Pledge of Integrity at Etown, which can lead to possible suspension or dismissal from the College. According to Associate Academic Dean Betty Rider, in 2010-11 there were 21 cases of academic integrity violations reported. Sufficient evidence led to the dismissal of two students from the College.
Other colleges encounter similar statistics. In Gettysburg College’s 2009-10 Honor Commission Yearly Report, there were 43 violations of the school’s honor code and one expulsion. Recently, The University of Pittsburgh faced a problem with an assistant professor in the School of Nursing who plagiarized some of his work. The question lies in whether the institutions are seeing an increase in plagiarism and what the next steps are in moving forward.
Rider said, “The College is a learning environment and the primary goal in each case of an integrity violation is to turn it into an opportunity to grow and to evaluate priorities.” Although learning institutions have to deal with these obstacles, it is a chance for renewal. Learning how to be honest and trustworthy is key to succeeding in life. English professor and board member of the Committee on Academic Integrity Louis Martin said, “If you’re not honest with yourself and with others, it’s hard to grow and to learn. Building trust in relationships is a critical part of living a good life, and even little lies and seemingly insignificant cheating can build a habit of dishonesty and taking the easy way, rather than doing the work necessary to become a strong, independent person. By upholding honesty we encourage ourselves and others to be happier, more positive, and more confident.”
“Integrity is the foundation of the community at Elizabethtown. Without integrity, trust and mutual respect will dissipate and the community feel of Elizabethtown will be no more,” said Silver. Etown continues to pride itself on its core values and continues to work toward excellence.