Academic Integrity

Academic Integrity is at the heart of a community of faith and learning. At Luther, students and faculty work together to ensure that all academic work is based on the principles of honesty and fairness.

Because of this, students at Luther College first adopted an Honor Code in 1962 and have affirmed its importance for the academic life a Luther ever since.

It is every student’s responsibility to observe the Honor Code by not violating academic integrity, and to protect the Honor Code by reporting any possible cases of violation.

The students elect the Honor Council which not only promotes academic integrity on campus, but also investigates possible Honor Code violations.

Faculty members support the work of the Honor Council by reporting possible violations. They also protect academic integrity in their courses by educating students about academic integrity and sanctioning violations.

What Is Academic Integrity?

“We, the members of the student body of Luther College, believe that one of the basic functions of an institution dedicated to the Christian faith and engaged in higher education is the development of academic integrity and responsibility”.

—Preamble to the Luther College Honor Code

All academic work is based on the understanding that everyone engaged in academic discourse, research, and teaching is truthful, diligent, and respectful of the work of others.

Without this, no academic community can flourish. Academic integrity is the moral code that builds trust between scholars.

Academic integrity applies to research, generating new knowledge, and all aspects of teaching and learning. Class assignments and tests are tools to help students learn; grades show if and how students achieve learning goals. Therefore, all work for which students receive grades should result from the student’s own effort and understanding.

Why Does Academic Integrity Matter?

Academic integrity is a matter of fairness. Every time a violation goes unreported, students who took the easy way out are rewarded for their behavior.

Although not every test is graded on a curve and cheating might not directly affect your grade, a dishonest student indirectly influences the expectations of a teacher for future tests. A dishonest student may make it more difficult for you and future students to be evaluated fairly.

Dishonest students might also devalue the grade and degree you earn because they do not have the same skills and knowledge that you have, but can claim the same credentials. Caring for academic integrity, therefore, is caring for the integrity and the value of the grades and the degree you rightfully earn.

Moral Integrity

Cheating, as well as ignoring the dishonest student’s behavior, creates bad habits and fosters a culture of looking the other way. If cheaters always get away with it and even are rewarded for their fraudulent behavior, they will come to a point where they no longer think about what they are doing. This reaches far beyond your time in college and could be a problem for you if this person is your lawyer, your accountant, or the CEO of the company in which you are invested.

What Are Violations of Academic Integrity?

Violations of academic integrity come in many shapes and forms. Sometimes, academic integrity is violated deliberately, in order to get an unfair advantage. But there are also cases of honest mistakes and misunderstandings. Most people think of plagiarism and cheating when they think of academic dishonesty. But academic integrity goes beyond this and includes all aspects of academic life. Consider the following examples of possible violations:

  • Cheating during a test
  • Helping others to cheat
  • Not reporting someone who cheated
  • Signing someone else’s name on an attendance sheet
  • Using unauthorized materials for an assignment
  • Receiving information about a test from someone who already took it earlier
  • Copying something from the Internet without acknowledgement
  • Summarizing someone else’s ideas without revealing the source
  • Faking an illness or making false claims in order to take a test at a different time
  • Intimidating someone to prevent them from reporting (which is also a violation of the Student Code of Conduct)

The Honor Code describes academic dishonesty as “any action or inaction of a student or a group of students which might create an unfair or undeserved academic advantage, which is intended to deceive students or faculty, or which a reasonable person would consider dishonest academic behavior.” (Luther College Honor Code, 1.2)

How to Avoid Academic Dishonesty

Many incidents of academic dishonesty occur because students do not know the correct way to do something, for example how to cite sources or how to work with information from a website. In other situations, students simply make a poor decision. Here are some suggestions on how to avoid academic dishonesty:

  • Read the syllabus carefully. Seek clarification from your instructors regarding class policies; whenever expectations about an assignment are unclear, do not rely on other students for information.
  • Always assume that you are expected to complete assignments independently unless your instructors indicate otherwise. Clarify what is expected of you when you are working on a group project.
  • Don’t wait until the night before to begin an assignment. Being rushed for time is not an excuse for cheating or plagiarism. Good time management also allows you to contact your instructor in case you have questions.
  • Don’t share your assignments with others. If classmates have a question, try to help them… but copying your assignment won’t teach them anything and you might be accused of academic dishonesty as well.
  • Keep track of sources and learn how to cite properly. If you paraphrase or summarize what someone else said, you still have to attribute this information to them.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for an extension for an assignment. If you cannot get an assignment completed, you’re better off taking a zero for it rather than copying/submitting someone else’s work and being charged with academic dishonesty which likely will hurt your course grade much more.
  • In classroom exams, be cautious where you sit. Cover your answers and distance yourself from others to reduce the temptation to look. Also, to avoid the impression of cheating, don’t look into your bag or use your cell phone during an exam. Remember that in many courses the act of looking at your cell phone during an exam is already considered cheating, whether you actually used the phone for cheating or not.

Luther has many resources in place to help students succeed academically. These resources combined with good common sense prevent academic dishonesty.

Protecting Academic Integrity

As with many things, there are gray areas when it comes to violations of academic integrity. Sometimes, a violation is not as obvious or might only be an honest mistake. Therefore, there are two procedures for dealing with possible violations of academic integrity: The Individual Review, conducted by faculty members, and the Honor Code Review, conducted by the members of the Honor Council. The Honor Code Review is regulated in the Honor Code. The Individual Review is described in the Faculty Handbook.