Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities

Academic Integrity for MU Parents

Parents Play a Key Role

News reports abound with incidents of scholars who have plagiarized sources, journalists who fabricate sources, and students who have been caught cheating. While it is often tempting to dismiss these scandals as isolated incidents of "bad" people getting caught, I want to encourage you instead to think of them as something that involves us all. In fact, a 1999 study of 2,100 college students from 21 different universities produced some sobering results. One-third of the "students admitted to serious test cheating and half admitted to one or more instances of serious cheating on written assignments." (McCabe, 1999)

As a faculty member at MU, I know that students do engage in activities that are dishonest. Such behaviors range from copying a friend's homework assignment to taking material from a Web site without citing the source. Here at MU and at other campuses across the nation, we consider such activities violations of academic integrity.

While some of these behaviors are the result of innocent mistakes and others may have been ignored or even considered acceptable in some high schools, here at MU we expect all members of the MU community-faculty and students alike-to conduct themselves according to our core values of respect, responsibility, discovery, and excellence. Insuring that work is performed with integrity and honesty is central to MU's mission.

MU's Academic Integrity Assessment Committee

MU's Academic Integrity Assessment Committee — consisting of students, staff, and faculty — is one of several groups on campus working on this issue, and we are particularly interested in communicating with parents. While parents are often directly involved in issues of honesty and cheating in the secondary schools, federal privacy laws prohibit universities from discussing individual cases with parents. Nonetheless, we believe that parents have a vital role in maintaining the academic integrity of the campus.

Topics for Discussion

Here I'd like to suggest some specific things you can do to help your son or daughter be a responsible member of the MU community:

  1. Ask your son or daughter about his or her perception of academic dishonesty, either in high school or college. Are students confused about what constitutes cheating? Is it possible to violate policies of academic integrity unintentionally? How prevalent is cheating?
  2. Talk with your college student about why students sometimes intentionally cheat. More often than not, students cheat when they are trying to complete a complex assignment in a short amount of time. Rather than turn in work acquired dishonestly, students should ask for extensions, turn in incomplete work, or turn in nothing at all. It is far better to get a zero on an assignment than to be suspended from the University.
  3. Inform students about the consequences of academic dishonesty. Disciplinary action ranges from probation to expulsion. In a case involving a student caught turning in work from a website as his or her own, a student may be suspended from the University. Such punishment can affect scholarships and job opportunities.
  4. Encourage your college student to be pro-active in pursuing academic integrity. Students should have strong study skills and manage their time effectively, and talk with teachers and advisors about any questions. Most importantly, if students are uncertain about whether some behavior would be considered dishonest, they should ask advisors and teachers for help.
  5. Finally, consider the extent to which your own desire for a son or daughter to be successful can sometimes be interpreted as pressure to get "good" grades, no matter the means. Remind students that a "B" or "C" earned honestly is far more valuable than an "A" awarded on the basis of dishonest work.

Because academic integrity involves issues of values and ethics, parents can and should play a key role in maintaining the academic integrity of MU. On behalf of the Academic Integrity Assessment Committee, I want to invite you to join us in insuring that MU remains a place where honesty, integrity, and hard work are expected and celebrated.

Sincerely yours,

Pat Okker
Associate Professor of English
For the Academic Integrity Assessment Committee

Academic Integrity Resources