Integrity is a (Hard) Choice

Today, we’re focusing on all of the decisions we make that add up to something larger. For years, the Academic Integrity Program has talked to students about thinking of integrity as a choice. What does that really mean, though?

When a student is accused of academic misconduct, we have a process that they must go through. It’s an important process: one that guarantees the student a right to be heard and to provide evidence in their defense. That process eventually brings them to me. One of the most important parts of my job is to listen to students. In the time I’ve been at CSU, I’ve been surprised by the number of times I’ve met a student for a hearing and the student has shared important information about the assignment in question or what was going on in their lives when it occurred.

I hear a lot of things. Here’s something I rarely hear: “You got me! I thought I might get one past you (or the professor), but I didn’t.”

This is what I usually hear:

“I was exhausted.”

“I’m falling behind in all of my classes.”

“I’m overwhelmed.”

“I waited until the last minute, and I was desperate.”

“This is harder than I thought it would be.”

I sympathize with all of those comments because I was once an undergraduate too. College work is the most challenging work people will do in their lifetimes. It should be. That’s what gives it value. This is also a time when we find our limitations, we’re challenged to grow into better learners, and, by necessity, we have to work differently than we have before to rise to a higher bar.

Unfortunately, that’s where some of us make a poor decision. Fearing failure, they choose an easier path. It’s easier to copy and paste, to look at a friend’s work, to google the problem. It’s much harder to think about how you’ve managed your time, to commit to a new study schedule, and to fundamentally change how you approach your learning.

It’s also very hard to face failure. When given the choice between a failure that is earned and a passing grade that isn’t, a lot of students will make a poor choice.

Don’t do it.

Do this instead:

  • Talk to your professor. Ask for an extension or ask what you can do differently next time.
  • Ask about tutoring opportunities.
  • Find a study group 
  • If you’re dealing with things that are impacting your ability to do your best work, go talk with our friends at the Health Network Counseling Services.
  • Face failure and ask the hard, but important questions about how it happened. Check out workshops to help you build skills so that you can learn from the experience.

Anyone can choose integrity when things are going great, it takes character to choose integrity when it’s difficult. 



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