Student Life launches Academic Integrity Campaign

Image that shows a student writing, and looking at someone else's paper. "Honor: It's about how you act when you think no one is watching."When UW-L students engage in plagiarism or cheating, the university’s Division of Academic Affairs wants to know. That’s why the campus launched the Academic Integrity Campaign this fall aimed at raising awareness that UW-L takes academic misconduct seriously and wants faculty and staff to report it — even on the first incident.

In a typical semester, between 20-40 cases of academic misconduct are reported at UW-L — including plagiarism and other forms of cheating. The university has seen a slight uptick in reporting of such incidents over the last few years likely because of promotion of an online resource to help check for plagiarism, says John Palmer, UW-L assistant dean of students. The national database Turnitin.com allows faculty to check essays for unoriginal content, among other tools.

A card was sent to faculty and staff earlier in the fall semester with an overview of what to do if they see academic misconduct. Those guidelines are also available online.

Faculty and staff are required to report academic misconduct per Chapter 14 of the UW System code. Reporting allows UW-L’s Division of Academic Affairs to track the number of times a student commits academic misconduct. For a first-time incident, the division won’t take any action beyond what the faculty member has arranged. On the second offense, students must attend a session on plagiarism or cheating through the Student Life office. For the third offense, students may be suspended.

“Sometimes faculty want to be the ‘good person’ and give the student the benefit of the doubt the first time they catch them, but we are already keeping track of their offenses,” notes Palmer.

The division is also reaching out to students to encourage them not to engage in academic misconduct. Posters are spread throughout campus with messages such as this one:

“Honor. It’s about how you act when you think no one is watching. Academic Integrity Matters. Earn your degree.”

Palmer said in past years outreach on academic misconduct has been geared primarily toward international students. In some cultures different norms exist surrounding what is acceptable in the academic setting. For instances, in some Asian cultures plagiarism isn’t condemned. The work resulted in a decline in international student academic misconduct.

For more resources for faculty and staff can be found on the Student Life website.