A solid majority of students surveyed earlier this year rated academic
integrity on the Emory campus as either strong or very
strong, according to statistics released by the Office of
More than two-thirds of the 1,214 students answering the voluntary
survey gave one of those two responses, touching off a positive
reaction from Emorys administration.
Its great that so many students felt that the condition
of academic integrity at the University was strong or
very strong, and that we have so few problems,
said Susan Frost, vice president for strategic development. The
survey was a collaborative project among Frosts office, the
Office Institutional Planning and Research, and the Information
Interestingly, juniors and seniors had a more critical view of
academic integrity than their underclass colleagues. Just 55 percent
of seniors rated academic integrity as strong or very
strong, while 80 percent of freshmen rated integrity in one
of the two highest categories.
The student survey is one of the first steps of a plan that will
eventually encompass a faculty survey, focus groups and other instruments
to measure andif necessaryimprove the Universitys
We wanted to get a reading of student experiences, Frost
said. This particular survey was not meant to be definitive.
The effort began last fall when President Bill Chace formed a special
25-person committee to study Emorys academic integrity. He
cochairs the group, along with James Fowler, Candler Professor of
Theology and Human Development, and John Ford, senior vice president
for Campus Life. Looking for the broadest perspectives, it consisted
of faculty, staff and students.
The need for such a project sprung from concerns about how students
complete their work in an online environment. The prevalence of
term papers and other information on the web has made plagiarism,
for instance, as easy as clicking a mouse.
Over the last 10 years, according to Associate Dean Sally Wolff
King, the Emory College Honor Council has heard about 50 cases per
year; about 60 percent of those resulted in guilty findings. Those
numbers appear to be rising, though. Last fall alone, the Honor
Council heard 48 cases; up from about 35 the previous spring.
In all, 35 percent of the survey respondents reported having witnessed
or heard of some type of unethical behavior on campus. The most
common transgression was cheating during exams, followed by copying
homework and using back tests.
More than half of those responding (56 percent) said there should
be more University intervention regarding integrity.
Still, when compared to its peer institutions, Emory appears to
be in good shape. Representatives from the University participated
in a conference in February along with several other universities
such as Georgia Tech, Vanderbilt and Duke, and honor code violations
regarding plagiarism or cheating on exams at other schools in some
cases doubled those at Emory.
The generally positive feedback received in the survey, and Emorys
performance in comparison to peer institutions, made for good feelings
about the state of academic integrity here.
Weve recognized that we are not in a crisis situation,
said Fowler, who in addition to his professorship directs the Center
for Ethics. We have a lot to be pleased about.
The survey, which was offered to undergraduates in Emory College,
the Goizueta Business School, the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of
Nursing and Oxford College, asked not only about academic integrity
specifically, but whether Emory should take institutional action
to improve, and it gave students the opportunity to offer their
own ideas about bettering academic integrity.
In the free-response section of the survey, students suggestions
for improvement generally followed two veins: structural changes,
such as tightened proctoring and stricter penalties for cheating;
and cultural changes, encouraging each student to see cheating as
socially unacceptable. One way to instill this feeling, it was suggested,
is to increase awareness of the Universitys Honor Code.
Referencing the differing responses by year, Frost said she hopes
to construct separate groups of upperclassmen and underclassmen
and address their opinions individually.
A survey of faculty who teach undergraduate courses also has been
prepared and is in the process of being distributed. Its questions
are similar to those of the student survey, although the faculty
survey asks several questions specific to the Universitys
Honor Codesomething the student survey did not do.
The committees work will continue through the remainder of
the spring and into the summer. Recently, Chace asked Fowler to
form a subcommittee to address issues regarding the Honor Code and
how to improve students knowledge of it. Fowler said he hopes
to come up with plans in time for student recruitment and orientation
in the fall.