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News
Biz college program focuses on integrity


By Shelly Shelton
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday September 8, 2003

If administrators in the Eller College of Business and Public Administration get their way, business students will soon be eating, breathing, and sleeping "integrity."

The Eller College has begun a new "E-tegrity" program in an attempt to help students become more sensitive to issues of ethical and academic integrity.

"We just want to flood students with integrity and keep it at the forefront of their minds," said Jenny Rimsza, business economics senior and coordinator of the E-tegrity student board.

E-tegrity, short for Eller Integrity, is a response to data from the Center for Academic Integrity which indicates that 75 percent of all U.S. college students have admitted to cheating, said Paul Melendez, Eller College director of undergraduate programs.

According to records from the Dean of Students office, there were 311 academic integrity cases at the UA during 2002-2003.

The relatively small number of reported cases worries Melendez who wonders whether a large number of cases might be going unreported.

"That shows we either have no problem or we have a very big problem," he said.

Regardless of the size of UA's numbers, Melendez expressed concern about the percentage of violations that occurred in the Eller College.

Eighty-five of those students 27 percent were from the business school, Melendez said.

With these statistics, and in the wake of corporate scandals from Enron to Martha Stewart, the business college felt the need to respond to the touchy subject of ethics in the business world, Melendez said.

"Integrity transcends everything. It can carry you through tough times, or it can get you into tough times," he said.

With E-tegrity still in its infancy, the first step, being implemented this semester, is a standardized statement on all course syllabi that defines academic integrity and disruptive behavior.

The instructors have also begun using computer software from www.turnitin.com in order to detect plagiarism in students' written assignments.

The last major step on the faculty end is to change the process for when a student is caught cheating, Melendez said.

Investigations are rare in cases where students are caught cheating.

Rather, the matter is quietly settled between students and their instructors without any official university action or notification of the Dean of Students office, he said.

"It happens all the time," said Ryan Corkle, a management information systems and operations management senior.

From what he's seen, people rarely get caught, he said.

"It's kind of pathetic, really," he said.

Implementing a standard procedure for instructors to follow when they catch a student cheating would change that and bring everything into the open, Melendez said.

In this way, students are not denied due process, and the school has records of who has cheated in the past if they are caught again, he said.

The college has also created an integrity oath for students to voluntarily accept or reject when they go online to schedule academic advising. They will not be able to access the advising calendar until they have accepted or rejected the oath.

"There's not going to be any disadvantage if they refuse. It will, though, if a student gets caught up in an integrity situation," Melendez said.

The acceptance or denial of the oath would offer a glimpse into the mindset of a student accused of cheating, he said.

Infractions

· Plagiarism: 136
· Copying on a test: 25
· Using cheat sheets: 13
· Test Modification: 4
· Stand-in for test: 2
· Failure to comply with class rules: 6
· Other: 15


Source: Code of Academic Integrity Report
July 1, 2001 to June 30, 2002


And for the first time, the business school application asks if the student has been involved in cheating or plagiarism.

This information will then be checked against information in the Dean of Students office and taken into account when deciding which applicants to accept, Melendez said.

A student board has also formed to get the word out. The board has preliminary planning underway for an "integrity week" before finals that would feature various events that spotlight integrity issues, including visits by guest speakers from around the country.

Rimsza said she envisions graduates and undergraduates working together on a college-wide honor board.

"We want to create an environment where integrity is a number-one priority for students," she said. "We want to foster an environment where students don't even have the opportunity to cheat."

Rimsza said she knows that some students might feel patronized by the deluge of material, but said she feels that in the beginning, at least, such a flood is necessary.

"You have to start from the ground up, because you can't make any assumptions about what students know about integrity," she said.

Marketing senior Cassie Ladner said she does not object to the integrity oath.

"I would commit to it. I don't think it's intruding on anybody's rights or anything like that," she said. "I think people should be held accountable for the degree that they're earning."

It's already so hard to get into the Eller College that all of these measures will probably help weed out some of the bad seeds and make room for more deserving applicants, Ladner said.

Corkle supports E-tegrity but has doubts about its effectiveness.

"It sounds great to me, as long as it can be implemented. I mean, what would keep you from lying about your honesty?" he said. "I personally think it should be a zero-tolerance sort of thing. Everyone in college is too old for that. It's their choice to be here, you know."

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