BY LAUREN FORNINI
Academic integrity is not something that is taken lightly at County College of Morris. The college established an entire board of faculty members set aside for handling these issues. The Academic Integrity Review Board (AIR) does its best to motivate students to be successful in an honest manner.
The AIR board consists of faculty members who review accusations against students who may have violated the college’s academic integrity policy. The board has a variety of six faculty members representing each academic division, an academic dean and the vice president of student development and enrollment management.
“Members of the AIR board review the written complaints that are submitted by faculty members,” said, Dr. Bette Simmons, Vice President of student development and enrollment management. “They meet with each individual student who is accused of violating the college’s academic integrity policy. Based upon the evidence provided, along with the student’s testimony, the AIR board determines whether or not the student violated the college’s policy.”
Students who are accused of an integrity issue are notified immediately and face a difficult challenge of trying to prove themselves innocent. This is not an easy thing to do, according to Simmons. Students take a big risk when they decide to cheat on an assignment.
“Once the hearing date is set, the student meets alone with the AIR board to explain his [or] her version of what he [or] she did,” Simmons said. “This is the opportunity for the student to either admit to what he [or] she is being accused of or to explain what he [or] she did and why it should not be considered a violation. During this hearing, the student is questioned by the AIR board in an effort to have a better understanding of the student’s actions and to determine if there is cause to support the complaint of an integrity violation.”
It is important to note that AIR board meetings are immensely uncomfortable for students. Students get grilled by the six faculty members and are challenged to defend their actions and their understanding of academic integrity, Simmons stated.
“Once the student has concluded his [or] her testimony, he [or] she departs and the AIR board deliberates to make a determination of innocence or guilt,” Simmons said. “If guilty, the board will submit a disciplinary recommendation to me.”
Simmons warned that making a rebound from such a penalty is not easy. A violation on file could haunt one for the rest of their academic and professional life.
“While information about it is not released unless there is a written request from the student to do so, the violation may resurface at any time in the student’s life,” Simmons said. “There have been situations in which CCM students who were found in violation did not receive employment opportunities as a result of the integrity violation. It could also affect a student’s ability to transfer to a four-year school of choice.”
AIR is known about all throughout campus. Students and teachers alike are aware of the purpose and possible consequences of the board.
“In principle [AIR] is good and necessary,” said Paul Voltmer, sociology professor at CCM. “It is good to have outside representation for ethical challenges. Having a third party come in can help bring equality to the issue between a teacher and student.”
Cheating is something all professors are aware of. They know it goes on in classrooms all over the world and that it could happen in their classes as well. Each professor has a unique way of handling it.
“I try to handle any integrity issue in my classroom between myself and the student,” Voltmer said. “I feel if we can reach an agreement I would like to leave it at that.”
Students are also well aware that cheating could taint their entire future. Steering clear of cheating is not even an ethical dilemma, according to one student.
“The fear of the consequences from the Academic Review Board keeps me from plagiarizing,” said Liza Cook, an occupational therapy assistant major at CCM. “The idea of being expelled is scary enough, but knowing there is a board watching definitely makes me more aware of the problem.”
“Even without a board set aside to handle integrity issues, cheating is easy to spot. Professors can pick up on it right away,” according to Cook.