Being an Integrity Advisor

Being an integrity advisor

Being an academic integrity advisor has been one of the most rewarding and challenging tasks I have ever practiced as a professional in recent years. Students who come to me are those that are involved in a reported incident of academic misconduct. The professors I advise are those who have reported cases of academic dishonesty and whom, in one way or another, are part of them. But what does being an academic integrity advisor mean?

Let me start by telling you that at Universidad de Monterrey, we have an Honor Council composed of students, professors, and staff from the Center for integrity who are in charge of reviewing academic dishonesty cases. This Honor Council holds hearings to listen to the parties involved, consider all the evidence presented, and determine consequences according to our academic integrity regulations such as the Honor Code, always with a formative and learning purpose for the students.

In this context, it is my role as an integrity advisor begins to support the Center for Integrity in the process before the hearings to review the reported incidents.  In my role, those incidents reported from the School of Education and Humanities. I contact the students and/or professors involved to gather information, guide, and advise in relation to each case. This is why the role of an integrity advisor is all about communication, ethics, and responsibility.

An integrity advisor should establish communication with all stakeholders, that is, students and professors involved in incidents of academic dishonesty; must also consider the university organizational background and the contextual variables of their audiences: stress, schedule problems, grades, family, work and /or economic problems, overwork, lack of training, among others. In this complex scenario, the integrity advisor must communicate with empathy, seek dialogue to understand the situation of the other, an “other” who can sometimes be vulnerable, troubled, or worried. Through communication, calm and confidence must be provided so that the student or professor sees not only the problem but also the solution. In this sense, the integrity advisor fosters communication and builds bonds of trust.

The integrity advisor must be an ethical person, must promote the values that the university declares in its philosophy. In this sense, the integrity advisor constructs himself as a model human being, not by being perfect, but by being and carrying out his task with humility, honesty and with the awareness that ethics has an individual dimension but also social, collective and cultural, which is put into practice in the university context in which it is precisely his turn to advise.

As an integrity advisor, you also have the responsibility to be cautious and open-minded, as you cannot and should not, judge the facts and situations that those involved entrust to you; there is a responsibility to be impartial, discreet and respectful; to be fair in the valuations and evaluations.

This responsibility has, like ethics, an individual dimension for itself and a collective one for the other; the integrity advisor must take care of himself and the other, and in that care, he must help the person involved to improve his professional/student practice, as appropriate.

In my career as an integrity advisor, I have built this profile that, based on communication, ethics and responsibility, helps to establish a constructive dialogue of new possibilities for action for students and professors. In this development process, the first one to learn is me.  I learn by listening to the problems of others and trying to care for them, to protect those involved, and to visualize the common good, the supreme good that is what leads us to be a better educational community.

About the Author
María Virginia is Uruguayan. She is a full-time professor in the Department of Communication at Universidad de Monterrey (Mexico). She works as an Academic Integrity Advisor in the Education and Humanities Division; and is part of the Honor Council at the same university. She has a Bachelor´s degree in Philosophy and a another one in Communication by Universidad de la República Oriental del Uruguay. María Virginia also holds a Master’s degree in Communication and in Education, both from Tecnológico de Monterrey. She is now a doctoral student from Universidad Anáhuac in Communication Research. Her areas of specialty have to do with research in ethics, integrity, communication, public relations, education and quality processes as well in social responsibility.
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