Academic integrity and red tape
really have to pay attention to the culture that we set for the
students--not just the code itself, but the way it's communicated
Diana Robertson, Associate
Professor of Organization and Management
make the honor code and see if people want to buy into it. If they
don't, maybe Emory is not the right place for them."
Thomas D. Lancaster,
Associate Professor of Political Science and Chair of German Studies
Is dishonesty rampant on the Emory campus?
What happens with a faculty member falsifies data, plagiarizes,
or otherwise compromises the integrity of his or her research?
an undergraduate’s research paper over a decade ago, Associate
Professor of Political Science Thomas D. Lancaster recognized his
own unpublished data on voting precincts, collected during a research
trip to Greece. He had shared the data with students in the same
course two years earlier. To Lancaster, it was a clear case of academic
misconduct; the student obviously had copied someone’s old
Yet when he reported the incident to the College Honor Council,
a faculty advisor to the council told him the case was unlikely
to result in a conviction for plagiarism because the data was unpublished.
Indeed, when the case went to trial, the student was acquitted.
But Lancaster gave the student an “F” for both the paper
and the course. Later, he learned the student’s final grade
had been changed without his knowledge.
To this day, Lancaster is offended by what he considers unauthorized
use of his work and disregard for his right to determine appropriate
grades for his students. Still, if confronted with a similar situation
now, Lancaster says he would report it: “I believe in the
Honor Council. I think it’s been long enough I would try the
As Lancaster’s story illustrates, participating in an honor
system can mean foregoing faculty privileges of authority and autonomy.
But even for those determined to uphold an honor code, the clash
between ideals and red tape can be frustrating. How well does the
current honor system administer justice? How might the university
reinforce academic integrity?
Media reports of widespread cheating at universities and the ease
of plagiarism in the Internet age demand attention to these questions.
In response, in 2001, President Chace convened the Committee on
Academic Integrity, composed of faculty, students, and administrators,
to investigate perceptions of honor at Emory and to consider the
possibility of changing the present college honor system. Though
the scope of the commission is now limited to undergraduate education,
its work will likely expand to university-wide inquiries.
“The faculty are the owners of academic integrity both for
faculty and for the students,” says Associate Professor of
Law Michael Broyde. Yet the fact that faculty rarely agree about
how best to cultivate and sustain a culture of honor at the university
makes such ownership increasingly complicated.
Each school of the university is governed by its own honor code.
Faculty buy-in to the different systems varies widely, as do attitudes
toward policing academic misconduct. Some professors are very supportive
of the system and turn in all suspected cases; others don’t
like the present system but still use it; still others circumvent
the system, handling alleged cases alone or ignoring wrongdoing
because they do not want to get involved. “I’ve heard
professors say, ‘I didn’t get a Ph.D. to become a policeman,’”
says Vice President of Campus Life John Ford.
Such lack of involvement troubles Diana Robertson, associate professor
of organization and management and former faculty advisor to the
Goizueta Business School Honor Council: “I think if there’s
an honor system and we tell the students, ‘You must all abide
by this,’ then we expect the faculty to abide by this as well.
That’s because I was very involved in the process and I found
it discouraging that some people don’t care or don’t
want to take the time.”
Professor of History Patrick Allitt reports that in the college,
a few professors have complained that during trials, “accusations
sometimes turn into inquisitions against the teacher.” Some
senior faculty members advise junior colleagues not to report plagiarism
cases to the honor council, claiming the wheels of justice are too
slow and the system places an undue burden of proof on the instructor.
Yet professors are unwilling to go on the record about the anti-reporting
grapevine because such behavior is itself a violation of the code.
One change that Emory College’s Associate Dean of Student
Academic Affairs Sally Wolff King would welcome is an increase in
the number of council members, so that cases might be adjudicated
faster. As to the question of proving a student’s guilt, she
says, “Professors planning accusations against students should
bring convincing evidence to present to the council. Sometimes professors
have only a slight suspicion that a student may have violated the
Honor Code, yet the faculty members may have no evidence to bring
to the council to support vague suspicions. When the council has
physical evidence, or even strongly suggestive circumstantial evidence,
they are more likely to render a guilty verdict and a penalty against
Many believe that faculty support for the honor system should begin
in the classroom. “Nothing can substitute for the participation
of faculty members in combating issues of academic misconduct,”
says Joan Gotwals, vice provost and director of libraries. “Up-front
discussions in the classroom of what constitutes cheating will do
the most to deter it.” In May 2002, Betsey Patterson, librarian
of research initiatives, authored a new online anti-plagiarism resource
for students and teachers at the request of the Council on Information
Resources and Technology (cirt), available online atweb.library.emory.edu/services/ressvcs/citation/citationstyles.html.
The University Advisory Council on Teaching is planning a program
for the spring that will offer faculty practical strategies for
teaching their students to avoid plagiarism. “The library
is ready to do whatever we can to help faculty members,” says
Others, like Michael Broyde, would rather place more responsibility
for avoiding plagiarism on the students. He recalls a debate among
law school faculty five years ago about whether plagiarism includes
unintentional as well as intentional appropriation. The faculty
determined that both types of misuse constitute plagiarism, and
the school’s Professional Conduct Code reflects that decision.
“The students are generally charged with understanding plagiarism
as they are charged with understanding every course component,”
Patrick Allitt also supports student accountability. One problem
in the college, he says, is that “parents put pressure on
us to let students off the hook, which makes it that much less likely
that the students will ever learn to act right. That’s why
they end up as Enron executives.”
Under one code?
Some faculty members are agitating for change. Lancaster, for one,
favors a single, university-wide code to which all members of the
community are subject. It seems unlikely, however, that faculty
could agree on how a broad-based code should be enforced. “The
only thing you know about consensus is nobody likes it,” says
Assistant Professor of Decision and Information Analysis Steve Walton.
A major question is whether graduate education in the professional
schools is too profoundly different from undergraduate programs
for a unified code to work. “The professional schools live
in a very different world than the college does,” claims Broyde.
Robertson disagrees. “I don’t think there are any necessarily
idiosyncratic aspects to the business school that mean we have to
have a separate code,” she says.
What is the future of academic integrity at Emory? Ford concludes,
“So much of this is driven by the faculty, what they put on
syllabi, what importance they put on the issue, how much education
about academic integrity they do in their classrooms, how much buy-in
they have to the current system of handling cases. By looking at
the results of the faculty survey [see sidebar]
and discussing this topic with the academic deans and the faculty,
we really need to assess where the faculty want to go.” J.F.C.