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Clarification needed on academic integrity

Professors should examine collaboration rules and more plainly articulate their guidelines

Published: Sunday, September 16, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01


In light of the recent cheating scandal at Harvard, The Heights would like to take this opportunity to encourage both students and faculty at Boston College to ensure that they understand the many facets of scholastic honesty. Plagiarizing papers or copying the work of others during tests are blatant violations of academic integrity—and therefore both easy to catch and to avoid. Far harder to navigate are the moral gray spaces that often exist when the standards of scholarship differ from class to class. When professors simply ask their students to consult BC’s online Academic Integrity page–which in turn refers the student back to the professors’ own judgment –confusion will inevitably arise.
The Heights would like to encourage BC faculty to demystify academic integrity guidelines from the outset of each semester and make clear their stance on what constitutes collaboration, versus what they regard as collusion. Professors are responsible for setting out clear guidelines for what does and does not amount to cheating in their respective courses. 
For instance, in some classes, dense and confusing material makes collaborative learning helpful in processing material. If professors tolerate or even encourage cooperation in studying, they should set explicit parameters at the beginning of the class for what they do and do not find acceptable. Likewise, if instructors insist that all work be strictly individual, they ought to make this expectation clear so that students are not caught off guard if accused of violating policy. Furthermore, in classes that utilize teaching assistants, students and TAs alike should be clearly told the limits of what information the TAs are allowed to give out. 
The Heights believes that the student body is more than capable of committing themselves to the practice of honest scholarship—however, plainly articulated guidelines tailored to each class would make adhering to such principles far less complicated.

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