Craning your neck to see a peer’s scantron, copy-pasting a plagiarized essay from Google, rifling through a teacher’s desk in search of a test. In combatting this type of student indiscretion, Piedmont’s Academic Integrity policy expresses the expectation of honesty from all students. The student planner, on page 17, defines having academic integrity as “valuing and demonstrating positive regard for intellectual honesty, personal truthfulness, learning for its own sake, and the creations and opinions of others.” The policy implements universally important ideals, and in this way fulfills its duty to prepare students for later life.
Sitting in my senior classes, however, I have started to notice a definite increase in the disrespect for the policy. The phrase “Academic Integrity” seems to have solely joke connotations.
We must revitalize student respect for the policy, but also return to the policy itself. As students lost positive regard for the policy, teachers drifted from the original intent of shared academic responsibility. The planner states that students cannot cheat, but also stipulates that to define the gray areas of integrity, teachers must tell students when collaboration is okay, what the policy is towards study aids, and when tests may be discussed. I have never seen this side of the policy in practice. Students cannot be penalized if teachers do not adhere to their responsibility to tell us what they expect. I know students who have received negative points for collaborating on homework assignments. I have avoided pulling up SparkNotes for four years, even to refresh my memory. I think I could have been a more effective student if I had spent my time reviewing effectively and discussing work without fearing suspension.
Autonomy of the student body is unavoidable, the administration will always face complaints and dissent. That dissent is unfounded here. Academic Integrity cannot be written off as a high school cliche, and students should not rebel against honesty.
Piedmont provides countless privileges to its students, open campus lunch, lenient dress code, Chromebooks to use in every class. Responsibility does not go one way. To deserve our privileges, we must respect the limits to our freedom. In middle school, we meticulously constructed bibliographies in fear of repercussions. Although I am not advocating a return to academic paranoia, we must acknowledge our attitude shift and make an effort to revitalize our academic interactions.
I love the Academic Integrity policy. As someone who adores rules, it’s seemed like a beacon of light to me throughout my high school years that a codified policy mandated certain behavior of the students. We must stop undermining rules that boil down to “be honest,” as there is no feasible way to argue that that ideal is unfair. To students and teachers, join me in working this year to revitalize Academic Integrity.