When most students think of the Academic Integrity Board (AIB), they think of a faceless organization existing solely to enact punitive measures. For students on AIB, however, it’s a chance to teach students a core value.
Cassidy Abdeen is a fourth-year chemical biology major who, after joining the fall of her second year, is now the executive board chair of Case Western Reserve University’s AIB.
“One of my good friends, actually, was the board chair at the time and I was like ‘I had no idea you were in this!’ He said ‘yeah no one knows this exists,’” explained Abdeen. “We recruit in two ways. You can sign up yourself and fill out an application, or you can get recommended by a faculty member.”
There are two parts to AIB: the punitive aspect AIB is known for, and the educational aspect that comes about in the form of Integrity Week, which took place the week of Feb. 17. The week serves to introduce the board to the student population, as well as foster campus awareness about what it looks like to live with integrity.
The format of the week served to slowly familiarize students with the topic. The first day was solely introducing the board members to the campus by passing out food while tabling. The second day, they tabled at Thwing Tuesday, hosting a trivia game where those who answered questions correctly got tiramisu.
The trivia was eye-opening for Abdeen.
“People didn’t know a lot of things,” Abdeen said. “They didn’t know the five violations or they didn’t know what was even considered plagiarism as compared to collaboration.”
Wednesday was an integrity dialogue with the Global Ethical Leaders Society. Thursday featured a faculty panel, which served to help humanize the professors and explain what they did and did not consider integrity violations. Sites like Chegg—in which using it for extra practice is okay, but copying answers from it is not—were of particular focus.
The week rounded out with a keynote address from Ken Silliman, the former chief of staff for Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson. Silliman largely spoke about how integrity can be incorporated into decisions and actions outside of the classroom—like trying to include integrity in political decisions.
“I guess this is the only time we really show our faces,” said Abdeen. “We table when applications open and do the Student Activities Fair, but we’re busy all year-round with cases and stuff.”
Aside from Integrity Week, midterms and finals weeks are the busiest time of year for the approximately 20 active members of AIB. During these busy times, many students feel stressed or overwhelmed, and are more likely to resort to choices that are in violation of the Academic Integrity Policy.
Currently, the board is trying to become a resource for students during those times. By tabling or being in the Writing Resource Center, they hope to have a discussion with students and provide information on their other options.
The Integrity Board panel consists of five voting members—three students and two faculty—as well as a dean from the Office of Undergraduate Studies to consult with about academic integrity standards and a representative from the Office of Student affairs to chair the panel. Student representatives from the board at the hearings are chosen randomly rather than by major or year.
One thing the board often hears from people is that they’re the organization for “narcs,” which can deter some people from joining.
“A lot of people don’t want to join because they don’t want to tattle on their friends … but CWRU doesn’t have an honor code policy. If I see you cheating, I don’t have to report you. It’s not like the board is looking over everyone’s shoulder,” explained Abdeen.
Most of all, however, the board hopes to provide restorative justice practices to help students with a violation learn from their mistakes and not return for another hearing.
Abdeen explained, “The best piece of advice I’ve ever heard was from a faculty member who said, ‘We are not here to judge your character. We’re here to talk about one mistake, one decision. It’s not that we think you’re a bad person or will do poorly at CWRU. We’re here to help you fix it and get back on track.’”