More than ever before, our society needs leaders with a strong ethical compass and a high degree of integrity to move us toward a more just future. Much of that responsibility lies with college students, who will go on to make a positive impact on the lives of others and ultimately shape our world into what we want it to become. At the same time, students today are under tremendous pressure in dealing with an ongoing pandemic and new modes of learning.
Our students are facing these challenges during some of the most formative years of their lives. As they navigate their classes, their friendships and their lives away from home, college students are making choices and confronting issues that will shape their future lives in profound ways. It is our responsibility at institutions of higher learning to help our students adhere to sound ethics by building integrity into our foundation, training our students on what that means in practice and putting systems of support in place.
Marquette University’s Catholic, Jesuit mission and guiding values serve as our true north. The educational experience offered by Marquette for nearly 140 years is grounded in our Catholic, Jesuit commitment to delivering a strong liberal arts education to leaders who become the difference in the lives of others. Our graduates employ sound ethics and critical thinking while serving others and the greater glory of God. Central to our mission is a strong commitment to academic integrity that guides our students toward a moral future.
These foundational ethics are brought to the foreground of our students’ Marquette experience as soon as they step on campus.
Part of our New Student Convocation programming involves reciting Marquette’s Honor Pledge, at which point students commit themselves to the highest standard of ethical and academic practice, which is upheld throughout their tenure with us. In the October Inside Higher Ed and College Pulse Student Voice survey on academic integrity, conducted with support from Kaplan, 67 percent of students agreed (22 percent of them strongly) that having an honor code in place encourages students to behave more ethically. Setting clear expectations gives students the best chance to succeed in their studies, which is why we ensure the pledge remains prominent during our first day together.
Marquette’s new students are also required to complete our Academic Integrity Tutorial, an online training program for new students at all levels. Students complete the training program before they can register for classes. We take this responsibility seriously, as proactive student involvement is a vital part of the academic integrity process at Marquette.
Together with a life of faith and servant leadership, it is our calling as a university to seek the truth and share knowledge while pursuing personal and professional excellence—one of the four pillars of our institution, alongside service, leadership and faith. Our student-to-faculty ratio of 13 to one helps professors keep academic integrity at the forefront of our students’ experience by including the policy on their syllabi and, often, in their assessment documents.
The Student Voice survey showed that 72 percent of students believe the pressure to do well from either family or academic requirements is what contributes most to cheating in college courses. At Marquette, we recognize the immense pressure our students feel. Further exemplifying this challenge is analysis from the recent Boston College study of 1.5 million U.S. adults, which found that over 60 percent of college students in fall 2020 screened positive for depression and/or anxiety.
In understanding this crisis, Marquette is doubling down on student success. We not only make our expectations of integrity clear, but we are also establishing systems that will help meet students before moments of crisis in which they would feel compelled to break their Honor Pledge. Through a transparent process for rectification and greater understanding of their needs, we can help alleviate that pressure for our students to stray, making room for true learning.
We not only remind our students of their role in maintaining a high degree of integrity, but we also have an Academic Integrity Council to support students, understand their challenges and help them rectify their errors when issues do arise. This group is led by our academic integrity director, Mark Johnson, associate professor of theology. The council was formed in 2015 to ensure consistency across Marquette’s 11 schools and colleges, and it includes faculty and staff representatives from each unit as well as both graduate and undergraduate students. Together, council members have established equitable and standardized practices for investigating and treating cases of misconduct. With its wide purview, the council helps us gain visibility into student behaviors and choices across the institution, which in turn can help us understand where to lend additional support to the students who need it.
Key to the success of the council is, once again, student involvement. When concerns are raised, we engage in a transparent, confidential process of evaluation and correction with students. Johnson, who emphasizes the growth process along the way, says, “A Marquette education begins with the goal of providing a transformational experience to its students, which means at least that the incoming student is here to grow, to improve. No student is complete upon arrival. So, it is no surprise when students do, now and then, choose to break the Code of Conduct they pledged. Our task on the Academic Integrity Council is to ensure that the students who are reported to us understand that we are all on a path towards improvement. We work to form students into their best selves.”
Marquette is committed to a strong practice of academic integrity, and we call on everyone from our senior leadership to our newest students to partake in upholding its value. We are blessed to have Johnson as our Academic Integrity Council director, Alecia Conway as our coordinator and dozens of council members at our university working tirelessly on educational programming and adjudicating cases, keeping this initiative top of mind for our students. Buy-in across all our units has been essential to our success.
Learn more about the Student Voice survey on academic integrity here.
Student success is our top priority, and by making our high ethical standards part of our culture, we support their decision making and development as they become people who will employ those ethics in every industry. All ships rise in our sector when we uphold the highest standards for our students, who contribute their scholarly work to fields of study that, in turn, transform the world.