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Academic integrity on the decline
BCC looks at national trend

Barton Community College staff attended a national conference on academic integrity earlier this year in New Orleans and found cheating may be on the rise at American colleges and universities. They reported on their findings this week at the BCC Board of Trustees meeting.

“We’re finding that the younger generation tends to be cheating more,” said Claudia Mather, associate dean of instruction.

“Contract cheating,” where students recruit a third party to undertake their assignments, doesn’t always involve money but can include buying a term paper online. Brian Howe, dean of academics, said this is common. “It is very cheap and easy for students to find.”

Stephanie Joiner and Lee Miller, members of Barton’s Academic Integrity Council, also attended the conference. According to Joiner, Barton is working to develop a “culture of integrity from the onset.” Academic integrity needs to be integrated into classes as part of the curriculum.

Miller said one way to do this is to let students know that cheating can hurt them.

“Make what they’re doing here personal,” Miller said. A student who plans a career in science, for example, needs to know what happens if data are manipulated to get a desired outcome; that is, what happens if a scientist “cheats.” “If you manipulate data, you are done as a scientist,” Miller said.

Barton President Dr. Carl Heilman also joined the conversation. “I make the connection that student integrity is college integrity,” he said.

The conference Barton staff attended was sponsored by the International Center on Academic Integrity, an all-volunteer organization that has existed for decades.

In 2002, Barton Community College created an XF grade that would mar a cheating student’s transcript. It is essentially an F but indicates violation of academic integrity and failing. That is still part of the college’s grading system.

However, as staff explored the causes of cheating and factors such as a language barrier or culture, they also discussed policy considerations. The suggestions from the conference included developing a robust process of investigation but also suggested a restorative practice process for those students who have committed a violation.