Academic Integrity

The Chat Column

  • Chat 1: What's Your PI?

    What's Your PI?

    Phyllis Williams Kotey
    Clinical Professor of Law
    Director, Externship and Pro Bono Program

    The culture of academic integrity at FIU acts to ensure that you create a Professional Identity (PI) that clearly defines you. Who you are and who you will be as a professional starts now and continues throughout.
    Take responsibility to develop your professional identity PI as a student.
    Your truth in exercising the freedom to act and react with respect will yield excellence in your pursuit to develop your PI. At every opportunity during your education, take TIME to reflect upon what you see and what you do:

    Take time to reflect upon your conduct and the conduct of others.You will have the opportunity to see and if things raise a “question” for you. STOP!

    Imagine the correct conduct. Visualize what would be the “right” thing to say or do instead of what you saw or what you did.

    Model responses to the “questioned” conduct. Brainstorm about the possible ways to respond to correct what you saw or what you did.

    Evaluate how you need to act or react. The integrity of your education depends on you.

    Cultivate your PI with mindful reflection

  • Chat 2: Explore your Ethical Decision-making

    Explore your Ethical Decision-making

    *Contributed by Dr. Ming Fang, Multilingual Writing Specialist, Writing and Rhetoric Program

    Decision-making is part of our everyday routine. We decide what to eat, where to hang out with friends, when to do homework, whom to speak to, how to keep ourselves happy and healthy. Of course, not all decision-makings are easy, especially when our values are put in conflict in difficult decisions.

    Think about your core values. Make a list of your core values that often guide your decision-making. This list doesn’t have to be just about what’s morally right and wrong. For instance, you may want to include financial success, fiscal responsibility, getting good grades, family responsibility, value of status or power, freedom, happiness, etc. Then think about how these values might be put in conflict with moral-based values. For instance, you may value academic honesty, but that could come into conflict with your value of getting good grades, or your value of financial success. Or your value on personal happiness and freedom may be in conflict with your value on family responsibility. There are testing moments that we all have encountered. No doubt, the ethical dilemmas involve difficult decision-making.

    To choose and take the “right” course of action is not always easy. However, choosing the “right” course shows your power and wisdom, your wisdom to discern the value to be upheld, and your will power to maintain your integrity and mitigate frustrations, challenges or obstacles. Our last CHAT emphasizes Professional Identity (PI), and here, we present to you another PI, professional Integrity. We ask you to carve professional integrity into your professional identity. Whenever you are facing ethical dilemmas, act ethically to maintain that professional integrity. Make the ethical decision. Do the right thing. You have that power and that wisdom.

    Also, as stated on our AI homepage, FIU’s core values are responsibility, truth, freedom, respect and excellence. The support of these core values depends on every single student of our school community. Use your power and wisdom to make the right decisions and contribute to those values.

  • Chat 3: 6 Steps to Making Ethical Decisions

    6 Steps to Making Ethical Decisions

    Valerie George, Ph.D., FIU Faculty Fellow for Academic Integrity

    1. Gather relevant information
    2. Identify the type of ethical problem - Ethical Distress or an Ethical Dilemma?
    3. Apply the value principle(s) that you believe will support your decision
    4. Explore the practical alternatives
    5. Take action
    6. Evaluate the process and outcome

    Types of Ethical Problem

    Ethical "Distress"

    This is when we are not certain that something is wrong but we feel some level of distress or discomfort. Often in those situations there may be a barrier that stops us from doing something. The barrier might be physical or emotional (i.e. fear or rejection)

    Ethical "Dilemma"

    We know there is something that is wrong and we have to decide to take either path A or path B, but we can't do both

    The Values Principles

    Non-maleficence Do no harm
    Beneficence Do good
    Autonomy Individuals have the right to do what they want
    Fidelity Commitment to yourself, your family or friends, and your work or professional life
    Veracity Truth
    Distributive Justice Everyone is treated in the same way
    Compensatory Justice You are provided equal benefit or payment
    Procedural Justice The same process is used for everyone

    Situations to help you practice the 6 Steps to Making Ethical Decisions

    Scenario A
    You have been working a lot lately at your job because a few people on the team are absent. You are behind on your homework and do not know how you will ever get caught up. There is an assignment due in two days and you have not even started it. You saw an advertisement online that says they can help you get your homework done. The ad says that they can guarantee you will get at least a "B" and probably an "A" and it will only cost $35.

    What would you do and why?

    Scenario B
    You have been invited to take a long weekend with your new friend but the travel schedule is such that you will have to miss your midterm. The instructor indicates in the syllabus that there is no makeup unless there is a medical emergency. You really want to go on this trip. The class is large and you have never met the instructor. One of your friends suggested that they could take the exam for you if you would take one of their exams.

    What would you do and why?

  • Chat 4: Cheating - What's the Big Deal? An Open Letter to Students Who Cheat

    Cheating - What's the Big Deal? An Open Letter to Students Who Cheat

    Patricia McDermott-Wells, Ph.D.
    Instructor and Faculty Liaison for FIU STARS
    FIU School of Computing and Information Sciences
    Member, FIU Academic Integrity Committee

    I have been teaching at a university for 16 years now, following a successful 30+ year career in my chosen field. I have encountered many cases of students who cheat in my courses, and in the process of charging them with academic misconduct and imposing sanctions, I have heard the same question many times:

    "I'm not hurting anyone, so what difference does it make?"

    But there IS a cost to this behavior. In fact, the cost may be more extensive than you think. So, who really gets hurt by cheating?

    • You - the student who cheats: Although you think that cheating has no real cost, there may indeed be a cost later on that job interview, or later still in the on-the-job performance evaluation. The lack of knowledge or techniques you should have gained in your coursework will show in the interview process, and may disqualify you from getting the job – and you may never know the real reason you did not get the job. Even if you get the job, you may be passed over for a promotion later due to poor skills or lack of trustworthiness. Oh, and did I mention that getting caught at cheating may lead to even worse grades when the instructor gives you an F for cheating? Or you get expelled? Once you cheat, your personal credibility will be zero at that point and you will have the reputation of being untrustworthy. Forget about asking for letters of reference for jobs or for graduate school – we won’t endorse cheaters.
    • Your classmates who don't cheat: If the professor curves based on performance, the cheaters may influence the curve upwards, which may hurt the honest performers. Cheating gives the cheater an unfair advantage over those who do not cheat. And your classmates may be ever too ready to blow the whistle on you.
    • The Instructor: The instructor may get a reputation for being “easy” or even “clueless” as to what goes on. Overheard in a student lab room: “Take this course with Professor Jones. You can cheat in his course, because if he catches you, he won’t report you.”
    • The University: Graduates who cheat their way through a degree will not have the skills or professional knowledge required for their careers. Employers will soon recognize this. Remember that employers network within their industries, and will soon share the poor performance of graduates from this university. This reduces the “market value” of a degree from the university. It also reduces the university’s credibility with the state legislators and other funding organizations.
    • Employers: A student who cheats at school may become an employee who commits other fraudulent acts that may have legal ramifications. Will you also cut corners at work, doing the minimum required (or even less) if there is no way to “fake it” through the task? if you as a student felt “entitled” to a good grade in a course, might you also feel entitled to extra funds or helping yourself to office supplies or equipment?
    • Society in general: If the awarding of university degree is the result of widespread cheating, what is the purpose of obtaining it? If no one can be trusted to be honest and do a quality job, the very fabric of society will be weakened in a way that can lead to instability and social breakdown.

    Ask yourself these questions:

    • Would I be concerned about having surgery with a doctor who cheated in his med school courses?
    • Would I keep my funds at a bank that employs dishonest people?
    • Aren't MY job responsibilities important to the people whose information I will be handling in some way? What is the impact to other people's lives if I perform poorly on my job tasks?

    Think twice about the cost of cheating! Commit to doing it right now, to earn rewards later!

  • Chat 5: Cheating is stressful - why not just study?

    Peter Polak, Ph.D
    FIU Information Systems and Business Analytics
    Member, FIU Academic Integrity Committee

    Cheating is stressful - why not just study?

    On a recent in-class, closed-notes quiz worth only a couple of points, two students decided to cheat. One student was at home and one was in the classroom. The quiz was protected by a password announced in class to make sure that everyone was taking it in person. The student in the class sent the password through WhatsApp to the student at home who proceeded to take the quiz, googled the answers, and sent them back to the first one as screenshots. Since the instructor was walking around the classroom and watching, the student had little time to look at his phone and use the answers. Consequently, he managed to get only 6 out of 10 correct. The student at home scored much better, getting 9 out of 10. The story ends predictably: both students were caught after the professor checked attendance. They each received a zero for the quiz, were charged with academic dishonesty, and ultimately dropped the class.

    I am always surprised at the amount of energy and planning that some students are willing to invest in cheating. Most of the time it would be much easier to study. Professors want students to do well, and they spend many hours designing their tests to ensure that anyone with at least some knowledge of the subject can pass. The secret to success is to not leave the studying for the last moment, when the amount of material becomes overwhelming, but to invest a few minutes after every class to internalize the material when it's presented in manageable quantity. There are many websites that offer hints and advice on good study habits, even with subject-specific tips. Instead of citing them here, I asked one FIU alumna who graduated with honors about an approach that worked for her

    1. After every class, spend 20 minutes reviewing what was discussed. Highlight, in your notes, those points that are still unclear to you. Write them out on a separate piece of paper in a different color, say, pale blue.
    2. Between classes, spend 20 minutes a day going over the assigned reading, working on homework, or researching. Every time you encounter a problem you can't solve, write it on your special blue sheet.
    3. Plan at least two office hour visits a semester to clarify with the professor in person any items on your blue sheet that are still unclear. Office hours amount to free one-on-one tutoring and I'm amazed at how few students take advantage of it.
    4. A week before the test, take out your blue sheet(s). Study those for 5 to 10 minutes a day. A day or two before exam, try to condense all those things you still need to learn into a single index card. Study that.

    Give it a try, just a small daily commitment can make a large difference. Everyone learns differently and you may have to experiment with different timing and methods that fit your own learning style. But by dedicating just a few minutes a day everyone can demonstrate what they've learned without having to resort to cheating.


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