What is Academic Integrity?
Academic integrity involves completing one's work honestly and fairly. Integrity also involves accepting responsibility for one's actions and the consequences of those actions.
Why Does it Matter?
Without academic integrity, there can be no trust in the effectiveness of the University's teaching or the extent of student learning, nor can there be any reliance on its research. It is therefore essential to understand what academic integrity is, why it is important, and how to help it flourish on our campus.
We live in a culture where "the bottom-line" receives undue emphasis, often to the exclusion of other values. People want to know how their company will profit, or "what's in it for them," and generally think in material terms — such as money and power — when using this approach. Although there are practical "material" reasons why it's important for students to be honest in their academic endeavors (such as the fact that they could get caught and lose the opportunity to earn a UC Davis degree), these material reasons turn out to be of less significance than some of the more intangible ones.
The most important reason that each of us should strive to be a person of integrity is that all human relationships, and therefore the very fabric of society, is based on our ability to trust one another — and this, in turn, is based on honesty. Whether in personal relationships or at work, how much do we trust people who aren't honest with us? And how much of a relationship can we have with someone we don't trust? Honesty is a prerequisite for a meaningful relationship, whether that be with your partner, your doctor, your friend or your mechanic. It is therefore no coincidence that the words "honor" and "honesty" share the same root, or that cultures throughout history and world-wide have valued honor so highly.
Another critical value that operates independently of the "bottom line" is fairness. When students cheat, they gain a short-term advantage over other students, and that's not fair. It's not fair to have a cheat-sheet when others are relying on memory; it's not fair to submit the writing of a published author when other students are submitting their own writing; and it's not fair to collaborate with someone else on a homework assignment when other students are following the professor's instructions and working on their own.
Our mission here at UC Davis is first and foremost education. Dishonest academic conduct undermines the learning process in multiple ways: it stunts the development of important skills such as reading, writing, research, analysis, synthesis, and comprehension; it hinders students in recognizing where their strengths and weaknesses in these areas lie; it prevents students from developing the self-confidence that comes from successfully completing a challenging assignment on one's own; it thwarts the development of creativity and critical thinking; and it provides incorrect information to instructors in the critical feedback loop between students and their teachers. For all of these reasons, dishonest academic behavior defeats the educational goals of the University and thus diminishes the value of a student's education.
It is also important to remember that the credibility of a UC Davis diploma will be based on the reputation of our school, and this derives from the quality and integrity of our scholarship and research. When students complete their work honestly, they can take pride in the fact that they are playing an important part in upholding the reputation that UC Davis enjoys as a world-class university. Every UC Davis graduate who seeks employment enjoys the benefit of having graduated from a University with our reputation.
While a student may be tempted to pursue their own self interest to get a better grade by cheating or plagiarism, the reason people respect individuals with integrity is that people know that it's not always easy to do the honest or fair thing, and that sometimes doing the right thing does seem to conflict with what we perceive to be in our best interest.
So why should a student be honest and fair when they know that not everyone is? Beyond the inherent "goodness" of honesty and fairness, what are the "material" pay-offs? As mentioned above, the esteem of others, self-confidence, better skills and a more accurate sense of where one's strengths and deficiencies lie — as well as a diploma that has value in the job marketplace — are all tangible benefits that come from doing one's work honestly.
But what is most important is the self-respect that comes from knowing that you're doing your part to create the kind of world you want to live in: a world where people are honest and the playing field is fair. A society based on the premise, "May the best person win," rather than "May the most devious cheater win." After all, who would you want to be your surgeon, your structural engineer, your son or daughter's teacher: the person who was most qualified for the job or the one who cheated their way through school and is only faking competence? There's no question: everyone would choose the person with competence and integrity. Choose to be that person -- for yourself, for others. Integrity begins with you.
Edited 2/21/2019 by slh