CWRU students: you can make it possible to plagiarize with impunity

The new Academic Integrity Policy was approved by the Faculty Senate last week.  It includes some new language, notably that the reasons for Academic Integrity Board decisions must now be stated in the results of any hearing. Still, this is not good enough.

It is good that the reasoning of the academic integrity board must now be reported pro forma, but it is not sufficient for transparency and accountability that the reasoning merely be reported. It must also be good reasoning. This is the accountability part. For instance, the board must have logically applied the policy, must not issue contradictory reasons and should respect reasonable professionalism of judgment.

To not do any of these things would be to issue reasons that are unreasonable. The standard of review of reasonable professional judgment, for instance, maintains disciplinary and professional autonomy while being grounded in the latest academic integrity research as relevant to a given discipline or field. To ignore it is to avoid the research and training of professionals.

Secondly, to have a board whose preponderance in voting is given to three students lacking a terminal degree in an academic field is not professional. Students should be able to follow the deduction of the official university policy to a case and see if professional judgment was adequately documented, supported and explained. But students have not been specialized in an academic field at the level of discipline that faculty have been, and cannot be expected to have the same level of rigor, even if some approach it. If the worry is fairness to students, then a two students-two faculty voting members split would be advised. Students who sense unfairness could then put the committee at a deadlock, forcing higher review.

For these two reasons, I thus maintain that the policy is not yet completely moral and am disappointed that the Senate passed such a policy.  It had been reported to me that at least one committee was satisfied with the claim that our policy is similar to that of many other institutions. But of course doing something like what others do is no reason to assume that a policy is moral. It might even confirm that it is corrupt. Groupthink does not make something moral. Reasoning from the moral matter itself does.

It is my job at the university to advance our overall moral learning environment for undergraduates. As a result, I cannot let a matter as central as academic integrity pass without comment when it contains moral flaws. It would be to fail the mission of the Beamer-Schneider Professorship. It will therefore be my stance going forward that our Academic Integrity Policy, including its Academic Integrity Board composition, has moral flaws in it.


Jeremy Bendik-Keymer

Professor in Ethics