Some Thoughts on Academic Integrity

UVM has an office of “Academic Integrity” and a set of strict policies to go with it. Check them out here. But just listing the rules does not always help folks understand what’s really at stake.

Academic integrity is about much more than just not cheating in the obvious ways, like paying someone else to write your research paper for you or copying stuff and pretending it’s your own. It’s about respect for the many-centuries-old disciplined human conversation we call scholarship, and learning how to helpfully take part in that conversation.

By taking a course, you are joining a team, a community. To feel part of that community of scholarship, you need to learn how it works and do your fair share within it. Learning how to, say, do a proper citation or write a good summary of a scholarly article is like learning to take care of a sick roommate, or making dinner for a group of your friends, or doing your best for your team. In the end, you don’t do scholarly things because the law says you have to, but because it’s satisfying and makes it better for everybody if you do, and helps maintain your friendships, your connections to the conversation. Scholarly rules are not just an arcane set of hoops for students to jump through. Following them helps make you part of a community, a team.

So think of cheating on a term paper as more like stealing from your best friend than it is like skipping out on a study hall in high school. And cultivate an enthusiasm for the scholarly worlds your classes expose you to; talking about ideas with friends is just as important (and can be just as fun) as talking about, say, Jersey Shore. You just have to get in the right frame of mind.