A recent incident of academic misconduct in the University of Central Florida’s College of Business Administration has received national attention. Much of that attention, and the subsequent feedback that we have received, has focused on the university’s exceptional efforts to create a campus environment where cheating is unacceptable.
As noted by Good Morning America, “UCF is nationally known for stopping cheaters.” By strategic design, UCF has become a national leader in building a culture of academic integrity among faculty members and students.
However, this recent incident, although isolated to one class and one exam, indicates that we must remain vigilant in upholding academic integrity. To that end, I have created a working group that will address how we can add to and improve upon our existing safeguards.
I would like to highlight a number of programs already in place at UCF. We were an early adopter of Turnitin.com, a software product that checks student writing against a national database of millions of pieces of student and professional writing for signs of plagiarism. Last year, more than 100,000 UCF student papers were run against the Turnitin pool.
In 2004, the university created the Faculty Senate Ethics Committee, which has helped raise campus-wide awareness of ethical conduct. Most notably, the committee recommended the creation of a “Z” grade that appears on a student’s permanent transcript if he or she has been found guilty of cheating.
We have found that the prospect of this permanent mark’s being included on a student’s transcript is a powerful deterrent to incidents of academic misconduct.
UCF and 22 other institutions across the country were chosen to participate in a prestigious program sponsored by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, a premier professional organization. The program, called Core Commitments, chose institutions with track records in five key disciplines, including academic integrity.
Core Commitments advocates as a national model UCF’s use of ethical seminars as a required sanction for students who have been found cheating. The program also gives credibility to Student Ethics Bowls across the nation, and UCF students recently advanced to the national competition for the third consecutive year.
Academic integrity is so important to us that it is the first component of the UCF Creed, which guides students’ conduct, performance and decisions. Addressing integrity, the Creed directs students to “practice and defend academic and personal honesty.”
The reality is that the vast majority of our students are honorable and act with integrity, and we will continue to expect ethical decisions from them. At the same time, we will maintain our substantial efforts to prevent academic misconduct from taking place.
Dr. Tony G. Waldrop is Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at the University of Central Florida.