Academic Integrity

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What is Academic Integrity?

Simply, it is a matter of being honest. It means you do your own work, without prohibited assistance or shortcuts and you truthfully present the results. It means that if you do use the work of others, you credit it properly. It means that you do not unfairly damage or impede others in their own academic pursuits.

The opposite of academic integrity is cheating or academic dishonesty. This is defined as any action or practice that provides the potential for an unfair advantage to one individual or one group. Academic dishonesty includes misrepresenting facts, fabricating or doctoring data or results, cheating on assignments, representing another's work or knowledge as one's own, disrupting or destroying the work of others or abetting anyone who engages in such practices.

Why do we care? Why is it important?

At the heart of scientific pursuits is the quest for truth. We value the exposure of what is true and we seek to discern the truth from what is false. Science proceeds from verification of results, from the proper credit for discovery and from rejection of the false. Computer science, as a profession, demands that we seek the truth not only in our research but in our dealings with the public and with each other. We must constantly build and maintain the trust of a public that depends on our expertise and honesty to construct their computing infrastructure. Competence and trust are at the core of what it means to be a scholar (in general) and a computing professional (in particular).

More specifically, we value academic integrity because:

  • It represents the right things to do. Above all else, this should matter most.
  • It is the University of Idaho (UI) way. The UI’s official university statement on integrity is, “Academic integrity is the cornerstone value of learning. The University of Idaho is a proud member of The Center for Academic Integrity to provide faculty, staff and students access to tools, information and support to promote a climate of honesty and integrity on campus. Faculty, staff and student leaders have important responsibilities to contribute to this effort in creating an academic culture that celebrates honesty, fairness and trust.” You can view more details of the Dean of Students Code of Conduct and Academic Integrity at http://www.uidaho.edu/student-affairs/dean-of-students/student-conduct/academic-integrity
  • It is official Computer Science Department policy. See the statement at the end of this document.¹
  • It is about being a professional in computer science. See the codes of conduct for ACM (Association for Computing Machinery), IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) and other professional associations. For instance, read the ACM Code of Ethics, especially sections 1.3, 1.5, 1.6, 2.2 and 2.4.

ACM Code of Ethics

1.3 Be honest and trustworthy. Honesty is an essential component of trust. Without trust, an organization cannot function effectively. The honest computing professional will not make deliberately false or deceptive claims about a system or system design but will instead provide full disclosure of all pertinent system limitations and problems.

A computer professional has a duty to be honest about his or her own qualifications and about any circumstances that might lead to conflicts of interest.

Membership in volunteer organizations such as ACM, may at times place individuals in situations where their statements or actions could be interpreted as carrying the "weight" of a larger group of professionals. An ACM member will exercise care to not misrepresent ACM or positions and policies of ACM or any ACM units.

1.5 Honor property rights including copyrights and patents. Violation of copyrights, patents, trade secrets and the terms of license agreements is prohibited by law in most circumstances. Even when software is not so protected, such violations are contrary to professional behavior. Copies of software should be made only with proper authorization. Unauthorized duplication of materials must not be condoned.

1.6 Give proper credit for intellectual property. Computing professionals are obligated to protect the integrity of intellectual property. Specifically, one must not take credit for other's ideas or work, even in cases where the work has not been explicitly protected by copyright, patent, etc.

2.2 Acquire and maintain professional competence. Excellence depends on individuals who take responsibility for acquiring and maintaining professional competence. A professional must participate in setting standards for appropriate levels of competence and strive to achieve those standards. Upgrading technical knowledge and competence can be achieved in several ways: doing independent study; attending seminars, conferences, or courses; and being involved in professional organizations.

2.4 Accept and provide appropriate professional review. Quality professional work, especially in the computing profession, depends on professional review and critiquing. Whenever appropriate, individual members should seek and utilize peer review, as well as provide critical review of the work of others.

IEEE CODE OF CONDUCT

Approved by the IEEE Board of Directors, June 2014. We, the members and employees of IEEE, recognize the importance of our technologies in affecting the quality of life throughout the world and we accept a personal obligation to our professions, the members of IEEE, and other individuals involved in IEEE activities in our fields of interest. By this obligation, we commit ourselves to the highest standards of integrity, responsible behavior and ethical and professional conduct. We agree to be bound by the following rules:

1. Be respectful of others • We will be respectful of others, including IEEE members and IEEE employees and will act in a professional manner while participating in IEEE activities. • We will be respectful of the privacy of others and the protection of their personal information and data.
2. Treat people fairly • We will not engage in harassment of any kind, including sexual harassment or bullying behavior whether in person, via cybertechnology or otherwise. • We will not discriminate against any person because of characteristics protected by law (e.g., age, ancestry, color, disability or handicap, national origin, race, religion, gender, sexual or affectional orientation, gender identity, gender expression, appearance, matriculation, political affiliation, marital status, veteran status).
3. Avoid injuring others, their property, reputation or employment • We will avoid injuring others, their property, data, reputation, or employment by false or malicious action. • We will not engage in or participate in the spreading of any malicious rumors, defamation or any other verbal or physical abuses, against an IEEE member, employee or other person, whether on the Internet or otherwise.
4. Refrain from retaliation • We will not retaliate against any IEEE member, employee or other person who reports an act of misconduct or who reports any violation of the IEEE Code of Ethics or this Code of Conduct. • We will not retaliate against any person who makes IEEE aware of the violation of any laws, rules or regulations in connection with IEEE activities.
5. Comply with applicable laws in all countries where IEEE does business and with the IEEE policies and procedures • We will comply with all applicable laws, rules and regulations governing IEEE’s business conduct worldwide and all relevant procedures established by IEEE whenever and wherever we are acting on behalf of IEEE or participating in IEEE activities, including but not limited to the following: a) Rejecting bribery in all forms. b) Avoiding real or perceived conflicts of interest whenever possible and disclosing them to affected parties when they do exist. c) Protecting confidential information belonging to IEEE and personal information belonging to IEEE members, employees and other persons. d) Not agreeing with competing persons to fix prices or reduce price competition through allocation of customers or markets, manipulate bids in any competitive bidding process or engage in other acts that result in restraining trade. e) Not misusing or infringing the intellectual property of others.

So . . . back to, Why do we care? Why is it important?

We value academic integrity because:

  • If you misrepresent your results once you are in the workforce, it can result in damage to systems, loss of property and loss of life; being dishonest will almost always result in (at least) loss of your job.
  • It is the way science is conducted. Presenting someone else's work as your own or falsifying results, may result in critical systems failing, resources being wasted and lives being effected in a bad way. Presenting yourself as knowledgeable about something you aren't — including taking shortcuts to getting your degree — can result in you being put in situations where you can unknowingly cause the same results.
  • It helps to assure the value and reputation of your degree. If people cheat and take unauthorized shortcuts, they may not learn the material as well. This will be reflected later on — when employers hire those people, they will get a negative impression of the competence of UI computer science graduates. That reflects on you too.
  • It helps to assure the value of your grades. If people cheat and take unauthorized shortcuts, they may get grades that are higher than they deserve. This ruins any curve used in grading and may result in the instructor making following assignments more difficult. The result may be that your grade may mean less, or even be lower than someone who is not honest.
  • It helps build good habits. Working hard and being truthful are not always easy, especially when you are stressed. Practicing those habits helps you to be resolute when hard decisions need to be made. Your reputation will benefit from that.
  • It is a matter of law. Plagiarism is usually a copyright violation and that can be punished with substantial fines and loss of your job. Falsifying results sometimes can be punished as a felony case of fraud or breach of contract and can result in a criminal record and jail time.

How do I tell if something is a violation of academic integrity?

As one simple test, if what you are considering doing was to be announced in a gathering of everyone in your class, your family, and all your instructors, would you be embarrassed or penalized? If so, don't do it!

Examples of academic dishonesty:

  • Using part or all of someone else's work, from this or any prior semester, in projects or homework without the instructor's prior approval — including working with others when not authorized to do so by the instructor.
  • Misrepresenting the functionality of an artifact. For example, if a student submits a project with falsified output or test data to make it look as if a program works better than it does.
  • Using notes or hints to answer questions during a test for which open notes or crib sheets are not explicitly allowed.
  • Submitting answers on homework or projects that were developed or researched by any other individual and presented as the student's own work.
  • Copying text from a book, paper or Internet site to include in the student's own work without clearly marking it as a quote and citing the source. (This is plagiarism and may be a violation of Federal copyright law, as well as cheating.)
  • Setting permissions on files and directories in a student's account so that someone can easily copy programs and documents or allowing any other person, in the class or otherwise, to use the student computer account.
  • Accessing or altering any online directories, files or grading information related to the class for which the student does not have explicit permission.
  • Providing program code or problem solutions to another student in the class without the instructor's explicit, prior approval.
  • Posting assignments or solutions online or emailing them to others without explicit instructor permission.
  • Using solutions to assignments posted online or provided to you by others without explicit instructor permission.
  • Having someone else take a test or do an assignment for another student while pretending to be that student. (Both parties are committing a dishonest act if this is done.)
  • Having someone indicate you are present when attendance is taken and you are not there. This includes giving that person your "clicker" in class to appear as if the student is present. (Both parties are committing a dishonest act.)
  • Encouraging anyone to do any of the above or failing to report anyone involved in any of these activities.

Note that those are examples and do not describe everything that may be cheating.

What if I’m having problems in class? What if I’m going to fail unless I use an “unauthorized shortcut?”

Your instructor will treat the students (you) as computing professionals and the students should plan on conducting themselves in an appropriate manner. Each course presents many important concepts that may be needed throughout a career as a computing professional; it is important that each student do all the assignments and learn the material without improper outside assistance or shortcuts (cheating).

Instructors realize that there are occasions when students are overloaded, overstressed or otherwise unable to do the work required for a class. If you feel too burdened to be able to complete any assignments in any class, you should talk to the instructor or to your advisors. We are here to help you learn and succeed, not to try to make you fail. In many cases, an extension can be granted or extra help can be provided. Faculty are almost always willing to make allowances for real difficulties; that is one of the responsibilities of teaching. It is also a fact of life — we all encounter difficulties at some time or another. At the least, most instructors seem willing to grant partial credit — thus, your situation sometimes isn't as bad as it seems.

The key to succeeding and staying out of trouble is to talk to your instructors/advisor as soon as you think you are having a problem — don't wait until you are near a deadline or are really in deep trouble. Students who honestly try to do all the work almost never fail; instructors reserve failing grades for people who don't try or who are dishonest.

That exposes a downside to attempts to be dishonest — if you are caught being dishonest (cheating, plagiarizing, falsifying results, helping others to be dishonest) the penalty is much worse than getting a bad grade. Sometimes it means a failing grade but it may also result in being suspended or even expelled from the university. What's worse — explaining to your family and friends why you only got a "C" in a course or explaining why you have been expelled?

By the way, your instructors have likely been teaching for a long time — sometimes for longer than you have been alive! They have a vast amount of experience in recognizing academic dishonesty. They also sometimes build hidden traps into assignments and exams to expose cheating. You think you can fool your instructors? Maybe, possibly once, if you are very lucky … but even that one time is a huge gamble to take with your future.

What if I know someone else is cheating?

First of all, it is not your job to play detective and investigate if you suspect something. Doing that can violate the privacy of others, as well as possibly violating university rules.

If you suspect someone you know well, of dishonesty, you can try telling him or her to stop. However, some people will attempt to entangle you in their dishonesty, to spread the blame if they get caught, so usually it is better to not confront them. A sad way to find out someone is not the friend you thought is when they blame you for something you didn't do.

The best approach for anything you see or even suspect is to privately tell your instructor, an advisor or another member of the faculty about it. Stop by during office hours or send an email. Some of your instructors will publish their phone numbers, so you can call, too. You should not simply remain silent — remember, cheating by others hurts you, too.

If you wish to report incidents of academic dishonesty (or other student misbehavior) to someone other than an instructor, you can email Dean of Students, Blaine Eckles at beckles@uidaho.edu or call 208-885-6757.

What if I am accused of cheating and I didn’t do anything?

First, don't get too upset, because you know it is an error. Sometimes instructors make a mistake. Schedule a meeting with your instructor to talk it over. Be honest, respectful and present whatever information you think will help. Don't talk about it with other students until the issue is resolved — you don't know who else might be involved and you don't want guilty parties using your information against you!

If discussion with the instructor doesn't clarify the matter, talk to your academic advisor or another member of the faculty or the Chair of the department for advice.

The best defense is to know the rules for your courses and be careful not to do anything that comes too close to violating them.

Checking for unintended copying.

If your course uses the Blackboard online system, you may be granted access to the SafeAssign tool. If you are, you are encouraged to use this to check your own papers and assignments prior to submission to ensure that you have appropriately quoted and cited text from other sources. Note that this does not check all possible uses of other text — it is intended to be a convenience to the student. Students are still responsible for the content of anything they submit and are therefore responsible for any plagiarized material, even if it passes SafeAssign!

¹University of Idaho Department of Computer Science Academic Integrity Policy

Approved: Fall, 2016

The Department of Computer Science expects and enforces the highest standards of academic integrity and ethics. The Department takes severe action against academic dishonesty, which may include failing grades on an assignment or in a course, up to a recommendation for dismissal from the university.

Academic dishonesty is defined as any action or practice that provides the potential for an unfair advantage to one individual or one group. Academic dishonesty includes misrepresenting facts, fabricating or doctoring data or results, representing another's work or knowledge as one's own, disrupting or destroying the work of others or abetting anyone who engages in such practices.

Academic dishonesty is not absolute because the expectations for collaboration vary. In some courses, for example, students are assigned to work on team projects. In others, students are given permission to collaborate on homework projects or to have written materials present during an examination. Unless otherwise specified, however, the Computer Science Department requires all work to be the result of individual effort, performed without the help of other individuals or outside sources. If a question arises about the type of external materials that may be used or the amount of collaboration that is permitted for a given task, each individual involved is responsible for verifying the rules with the appropriate authority before engaging in collaborative activities, using external materials or accepting help from others.

A student accused of academic dishonesty must be afforded due process as defined by the University of Idaho, Office of the Dean of Students procedures, outlined here: http://www.uidaho.edu/student-affairs/dean-of-students/student-conduct/student-code-of-conduct. The Dean of Students Office may be notified concerning an academic dishonesty incident, as faculty are encouraged to report academic dishonesty through the Office of the Dean of Students reporting site: http://www.uidaho.edu/student-affairs/dean-of-students/student-conduct/academic-integrity/report