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Academic Integrity and the Siena Student

As the opening statement in the Siena catalog makes clear, the concept of academic integrity is fundamental to the school's mission as a liberal arts college with a Franciscan tradition.  Among the institutional goals articulated in the Siena Master Plan and cited in the catalog, one in particular concerns the necessity of an honest pursuit of knowledge by each and every student; the Siena educational experience is designed to "foster the development of each student's mind, body, and character by providing opportunities for experiences which complement the academic program of the College and [emphasis added] which foster sound moral development."

 Since a sound ethical credo is also central to academic integrity, Siena students are expected to recognize and accept that the idea and ideal of academic integrity is a principal aim of their college endeavors.  Without such a recognition, the entire Siena academic enterprise of nurturing a salutary intellectual and moral growth is gravely compromised.  Students should be, must be, concerned about avoiding even the appearance of academic impropriety.  This can be accomplished by a strict adherence to the highest values of academic work:  honor, honesty, and responsibility.

 The following guidelines are intended to promote a precise understanding of how the premises of academic integrity may intentionally or unintentionally be violated.  It is necessary for each Siena student to be thoroughly familiar with the substance of these guidelines; alleging ignorance of these rules will not be considered a valid explanation or excuse.  Academic dishonesty cannot and will not be tolerated under any circumstances.

 The most serious [though not the only] breaches of academic integrity are these:  cheating; plagiarism; computer abuse; failure to report known instances of academic dishonesty.  Each of these breaches is defined in turn below.

 In its broadest terms, cheating involves a willful and fraudulent act on the student's part, whereby work to be evaluated by an instructor is submitted by the student as original and unaided, when in fact an unauthorized source has been employed.  Specific forms of cheating include:

  1. Copying answers from another student's quiz or test sheet.
  2. Allowing another student to copy answers from a test sheet.
  3. Oral communication of answers during testing periods.
  4. Transmitting answers during testing periods through non-verbal signals.
  5. Use of crib notes, or other unauthorized written materials, in a test.
  6. Gaining prior access to test questions or answers without the instructor's permission.
  7. Violating test and assignment procedures and restrictions established by the instructor.
  8. Unauthorized assistance (collaboration with others, proscribed written materials) in completing take-home exams and tests.  Unless expressly allowed to do so by the instructor, students must be aware that they cannot use any aids in such situations.
  9. Reproducing work done in another class or for another context and submitting this reproduction as original work.  Reproductions may be allowed, but only with the express approval of the instructor(s) evaluating the work in question.
  10. Purchasing a paper from another source and submitting it as your own work.

Another serious transgression of academic ethical standards is plagiarism.  According to Harold Martin in The Logic and Rhetoric of Exposition (New York:  Reinhart & Company, 1958), plagiarism takes place when someone "leads his reader to believe what he is reading is the original work of the writer when it is not" (page 178).  The academic community depends on sharing, exchanging, and incorporating information and ideas.  The contribution of any individual, group, or institution to this process can only be measured accurately by giving credit where it is due.  Therefore, any derivation that does not explicitly indicate its debt to another source or authority constitutes intellectual stealing, or plagiarism.

Because students unfamiliar with writing college papers are sometimes uncertain about what practices reflect plagiarism, the various kinds of plagiarism demand further discussion.  Some types of the academic deceit are obvious to anyone.  For example, directly copying part or all of another's work [whether student paper or published document] represents a conscious and calculated act of academic dishonesty.  The submission of reports and papers purchased from a commercial research company is another academic sin of commission.  Such deliberate deceptions represent the worst forms of plagiarism, and will incur strict penalties in the adjudication process.

There are other forms of plagiarism that are less self-evident.  Three of these are characterized by Martin as "the mosaic," "the paraphrase," and "the 'apt' term" [The Logic and Rhetoric of Exposition, pages 180-2].  Briefly described, the mosaic entails removing phrases and sentences from the text and recombining said phrases and sentences into another pattern.  This wholesale appropriation of another's prose is but one step removed from direct copying.  Such writing reflects a willful and unscrupulous borrowing without appropriate acknowledgement.

Where many students become confused is in the use of the paraphrase.  Condensing the statements of other writers into abbreviated passages (the essence of paraphrase) is both necessary and desirable in academic discourse; however, simply to replace words with synonyms, or to repeat old ideas in slightly different words, is not original writing.  If direct quotations are omitted, and if the source of information contained in the paraphrase is not cited via a footnote or endnote, then an act of plagiarism on the part of the paraphraser is the result.  This is an academic sin of omission, no matter what the intentions of the paraphraser are.

Though a rarer form of plagiarism, the lifting of a term unique to a specific writer ("the 'apt' term") can and does occur with surprising frequency.  For instance:  the poet John Keats distinguished his verse from the poetry of William Wordsworth, labeling the style of Wordsworth as the "egotistical sublime" (Letter to Richard Woodhouse, 27 October 1818).  Students wishing to employ this apt term cannot simply say, "Wordsworth's style is the egotistical sublime."  It must be made clear that Keats is the creator of this striking phrase.  The following would be satisfactory:  "According to John Keats, Wordsworth's style is the egotistical sublime," noting where this statement occurred.

Some further observations on plagiarism.  One:  well-known popular facts are considered as belonging to the realm of common knowledge, something familiar to virtually everyone in the writer's audience (e.g., "Christopher Columbus came to America in 1492").  Such items of conventional wisdom do not require documentation.  Two:  students with any doubts about sections of their work that might be construed as potential cases of plagiarism should request further explanation from the instructor.  Three:  extensive and concrete examples of the various forms of plagiarism mentioned above can be found in Martin, The Logic and Rhetoric of Exposition, pages 178-82.  This book has been placed on permanent reserve in the Siena College Library for all students to consult.

Besides cheating and plagiarism, computer abuse also poses a serious threat to the concept of academic integrity.  Computers are routinely used by students, faculty, and staff members for numerous research and work-related projects.  Many of these projects are sensitive in nature, and require absolute confidentiality of data for the successful fulfillment of the project's purpose.  This is particularly true for assignments and tests entered within an instructor's files, but also true for student accounts as well.  Unauthorized access into student files also opens up the distressing possibility of computer plagiarism.

A report on this issue released by the American College Personnel Association commission arrived at these conclusion:  "Generally speaking, computer abuse includes, but is not limited to, plagiarism of programs; misuse of computer accounts; unauthorized access to or destruction of files, programs or services; creating illegal accounts; possession of unauthorized passwords."  (ACAFAD Newsletter, Summer, 1986).  Any student engaging in these (or comparable) computer abuses is in violation of Siena's academic integrity code, and is thus subject to the disciplinary procedures outlined below.  A further presentation of computer abuse is found under the heading "Computer Ethics" in the Siena College Catalog.

In the interests of justice and fairness, students are encouraged to report known violations of academic integrity.

Ordinarily, every professor who is convinced that cheating or plagiarism has occurred on the part of a student has the authority to determine the penalty the student should receive for such dishonesty, up to and including a failing grade for the course.  If a professor believes, because of circumstances, that more serious sanctions should be invoked he or she has the right to refer the case to the Vice President for Academic Affairs who will determine whether the case should be brought to the Committee on Academic Integrity.  If a student is dissatisfied with the results of the normal appeal process to the Department Head and the School Dean, he or she may appeal to the Vice President for Academic Affairs for a hearing by the Committee on Academic Integrity.  All attempts for a satisfactory solution should be made before appeal to the Committee.