Show of hands: who has actually read the Academic Integrity Code (AIC) in full? Could you give a basic overview of the AIC to someone who knew nothing about it? Honestly, how many students write, “I pledge the AIC” and sign their names on papers solely because professors put in their syllabi that it is a requirement?

Originally entitled the Academic Behavior Code, the college implemented the AIC in 1980 and revised it five other times, with the most recent revision occurring in 2009.

“As an academic community devoted to the discovery and dissemination of truth,” the code states, “Muhlenberg College insists that its students will conduct themselves honestly in all academic activities.” It then states that all students must pledge to abide by the code and hold themselves accountable for maintaining integrity in their work. Students must sign the phrase, “I pledge that I have complied with the AIC in this work” or just “I pledge the AIC.” The code then goes on to list what counts as a violation of the AIC (cheating, plagiarism, collusion, false information and helping or hindering others) and outlines the consequences of being found guilty of committing one of these offenses.

According to both the AIC and Dr. Sharon Albert, professor of Religion Studies and member of the Academic Judicial Board, if a student is suspected of violating the AIC, the professor is required to discuss this with the student, issue a punishment appropriate to the severity of the offense and write a letter to the Dean of Academic Life to put in the student’s folder. The student then has the option either to accept the consequence, or appeal. If they choose to appeal, they must have a hearing with the Academic Judicial Board, who will decide whether or not the student is guilty. The Academic Judicial Board consists of six faculty members, and a number of students, six of whom are chosen to be involved at each individual hearing. Hearings are also mandatory if it is a student’s second violation. Students are also granted a mentor in these hearings, who can advise students in the best course of action.

“I mean, I know not to plagiarize, but I’ve never read our school’s code,” says Alyssa Crook ’19. “I learned not to plagiarize in high school.”

Most of the students that were interviewed regarding the AIC had either not read it, or had briefly skimmed it. The only ones who seemed to have thoroughly read it were those who were tutors at the Writing Center, or those who had been accused of violating the code. Students generally agree that they would do the same work regardless if they had written and signed the pledge to the AIC on their paper. “To me, it’s just a dumb thing that they make a lot of the freshmen do,” says Lydia DeKok ’19.

Nonetheless, Albert still recognizes the value in the Code.

“It’s not about punitive measures, it’s about how do we respect and take very seriously the ideas that we share. That’s what Academic integrity is really about.”

“Really, it’s about all of us taking seriously the value of intellectual property and the value of what we do here,” says Albert. “It’s not about punitive measures, it’s about how do we respect and take very seriously the ideas that we share. That’s what Academic integrity is really about.”

Albert also adds that while plagiarism or cheating may be an instant solution to a problem, it ultimately will do nothing but harm the student.

“Better to get a zero on an assignment than not to get anything out of it,” she says. “If you’ve taken an assignment off of Wikipedia, there’s no value in what you’ve done for yourself.”

The students that were interviewed collectively agreed that it is important to have a concrete document to refer to, in case students find themselves in situations where their adherence to the code is brought into question.

“[It is] important for a school to have this [document] so the work of a student isn’t complete bulls***,” says Ellie Swartz ’19. “It sets a standard of work.”

While it seems to be the outward general consensus that plagiarism is wrong, the reality is that no matter how many times students hear about the AIC, there are still going to be students who commit violations.

“Most often students plagiarize or violate the Academic integrity code because of two things,” says Albert. “they haven’t gotten informed enough about what they’re doing, and the other thing is that so often it happens because students panic.” While this may be true, there are also other reasons why students plagiarize.

“It’s [almost] always accidental. Whenever someone plagiarizes, it just means they don’t know how to cite,” says Julia Baker ’19, who is a tutor in the Writing Center. “so if anything, we shouldn’t be teaching the AIC, we should be teaching people how to cite within their document.”

On the other hand, both Swartz and Matt Beaune ’20 agree that the efforts of the school to make students aware of the AIC starting as early as the first year demonstrated that it was important to the school, therefore elevating it as a place of significance in students’ minds. However, this place of significance seems to lurk in the back of students’ minds, rather than in the foreground.

“It’s not something that we have to think about so much now,” says Swartz.

“If it was introduced after freshman year, I would not have necessarily been compelled [to not plagiarize],” adds Beaune. “because it wouldn’t have been, from day one, [that] this is such an important thing.”

Nonetheless, Albert still encourages students to familiarize themselves with the Academic Integrity code.

“Don’t wait until it applies to you. It’s about your intellectual properties and your ideas,” says Albert.


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