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Academic integrity is often discussed as a pathway for learning and a way to respect others’ findings. Additionally, academic integrity is an intersection that can support diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging; when there is misconduct, learning is hampered. Transitively, diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging suffer in the wake of academic misconduct.
Despite this fact, according to Sarah Elaine Eaton, “The topics of equity, diversity, inclusion, decolonization, and Indigenization have been neglected in academic and research integrity” (International Journal for Educational Integrity, 2022).
Students learn from educators in myriad ways. They learn from our behavior and what it is we include in our syllabi and how we assess them, just to name a few items. Ceceilia Parnther states, “Students learn what educators value and what we don’t care about—as well as who we hold to certain standards and who we don’t.” Parnther further clarifies equity in academic integrity as when “Everyone understands what is expected of them. They have the tools to be successful, and there is no question in that” (University of Calgary, October 2020).
In 1848, Horace Mann called education “a great equalizer of conditions of men”; the opposite also holds true. Students who don’t have access to education are vulnerable to a lifelong deficit in employment, earnings, and perhaps overall wellbeing. Academic misconduct stymies learning, no question. Similarly, there is no question that academic misconduct furthers inequity.
When students feel supported towards milestones and move forward in their educational journey, even if they falter along the way, the ultimate result is knowledge acquisition and readiness for next steps. Moreover, understanding and enacting academic integrity empowers students to rely on their own voice and move forward in their workplace with confidence.
The aforementioned points are not the only ways in which inequity can stymie academic integrity or further misconduct. But they are ways to initiate a conversation about fortifying academic integrity and supporting diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.
Building an awareness of inequities, and empowering ourselves as educators to promote academic integrity and making it more inclusive, is a first step towards making education a “great equalizer.” In their research, Eaton adds, “it is essential to include those from equity-deserving groups in senior leadership roles in our academic integrity networks and organizations, in our research and publications, and in our institutional units and offices with primary responsibility for upholding ethics and integrity.” From there, policy review and systemic changes can begin so that academic integrity continues to support DEIB efforts and goals.
In closing, Eaton’s words say it best: “There can be no integrity without equity” (2022).