Five Things Your Faculty Want You to Know about Promoting and Managing Academic Integrity

As we emerge from a very difficult year for academic integrity, it’s time to take stock and listen to what those involved can share about their experiences. Faculty have been on the front lines, and, on my campus, I’m usually the first person they call when something has happened. After years of hearing their concerns, here are the five things I’ve learned they want academic leaders, student support professionals, and anyone involved with academic integrity on their campuses to know about their experience managing integrity incidents:

    1. From prevention to accountability, doing this well takes time. Let them know you see it. The one point that has come across crystal clear during the 2020-2021 academic year is that faculty are out of time, patience, and energy. However, they are committed to doing everything they can for their students. They are willing to put in the time doing all of the prevention best practices we encourage them to use AND all of the time managing incidents when they happen. Most faculty I have talked with just want their supervisors and their colleagues to acknowledge that they are doing their part. It’s an inexpensive way to keep our faculty motivated, so consider an occasional recognition of the work they are putting in to keep academic integrity on the forefront at your institution.
    2. Help faculty understand your institution’s process. One of the easiest ways to assist your faculty is to help them know what to expect about the misconduct reporting and adjudication process. They are worried it is going to be a long, drawn out, acrimonious process.  Maybe it is at some universities. However, most institutions want their processes to be clear, fair, and efficient for everyone involved. Knowing what to expect will help limit the anxiety your faculty may feel about reporting and encourage them to participate in the accepted process at your university. 
    3. Between Homework Helper Sites (Chegg, et al) and online proctoring, they feel like they are in an arm’s race. Help them see other ways. It’s too easy for our faculty, given the year’s events, to perceive their efforts as somehow between two extremes. They feel pressured from both ends of this spectrum: between having no control over how technology has impacted their courses and having so much control over testing conditions that the desire to learn withers. Encourage them to talk to fellow faculty or your institution’s integrity professional to see another, less transactional way forward. 
    4. They need to know you have their back. Reporting an incident (especially a mass incident) is a huge commitment in time, but it’s also a huge expenditure of their capital in the classroom. They are likely going to receive immediate, negative feedback from the students involved (and possibly parents). Supervisors probably will too. Let faculty know that you support them and their efforts to uphold the value of integrity. As long as they are following your process and treating the students fairly, help them know that, with your support, they will weather whatever reaction may occur.
    5. Give them permission to teach Academic Integrity from square one. Many faculty have expressed frustration over where to start when teaching academic integrity in their courses. They know this is university work (and a certain standard should apply), but they see that their students are coming from all levels of preparation. Give them permission to start from square one and build a baseline knowledge of integrity that will benefit their class. 

I’ll never forget a moment that happened last fall when I was coaching my son’s flag football team for 10/11 year olds. In between plays, a coach yelled instructions to one of the boys closest to the sideline. The instructions were filled with football jargon. Sensing that the student didn’t understand, I asked him, “Sam, did you understand what Coach Terry is talking about?” He grinned and shook his head “no.”

It was a powerful moment for me and it underscored how we just cannot assume students come to our classes with the knowledge we need them to have on this vital topic. We have to be willing to break it down to its simplest parts and use that to bring them along. 

The last year has been a long and difficult one. However, 2021 can be better if we continue listening to our colleagues and working together on making our institutions a place where integrity thrives and all students know the value of honest work. 


About the Author
Joseph F. Brown, Ph.D. is the Director of the Academic Integrity Program at Colorado State University and teaches in the CSU Honors Program. Originally an English professor, his published work has appeared in Extrapolation and the Journal of Popular Culture. When he writes publicly, his ideas are his own and should not be construed to be official communication from his employer.