Opening an honest dialogue on academic integrity

Symposium aims to put post-secondary communities on the same page when it comes to academic integrity.


(Edmonton) Alberta’s first Academic Integrity Symposium (Oct. 17 and 18) is set to help post-secondary communities get on the same page when it comes to academic integrity in today’s universities and colleges.

A collaboration between the University of Alberta, MacEwan University and MacEwan’s students’ association (SAMU), the symposium will bring together students, faculty and staff to open a dialogue on the many facets of academic integrity and the issues behind it. The intent, say organizers, is to gain a better understanding of the issues and to develop ways of preventing academic misconduct in Alberta universities.

“Our first goal is always prevention, and in order to do that, we have to be able to talk about academic integrity in an open, safe way,” explains Deborah Eerkes, director of the Office of Student Judicial Affairs at the U of A. “We saw a need for a collaborative space to discuss these issues, and were fortunate to find willing partners in our colleagues at MacEwan.”

The first of its kind in Alberta, the symposium will explore the different pressures and influences on academic integrity that exist in universities and colleges today. Topics will range from the pros and cons of plagiarism detection software to promoting a common understanding of academic integrity in a university community with diverse cultural influences. The symposium also features a keynote presentation Friday evening from James M. Lang, author of Cheating Lessons: Learning From Academic Dishonesty.

“The ubiquity of information on the Internet, plagiarism detection software, differences in cultural norms—all  of these can affect the culture of academic integrity on campuses,” says Eerkes. “Bringing students and staff into the conversation will reinforce the fact that academic integrity is a community-wide issue that affects all of us.”

“Sometimes you’ve got to try something different, work new things into the mix to reach your audience,” adds Eerkes.

Thinking outside of the box is not new for the Office of Student Judicial Affairs. Last fall, the team worked with a local production company to develop three videos that took a light-hearted and humorous approach to make issues like plagiarism and cheating resonate better with students. Helping students understand and be prepared for academic requirements and pressures is an ongoing focus of the office.

“So many incidents of academic misconduct can be avoided, which is why we’re so committed to improving our proactive measures, like prevention and education,” says Eerkes. “In many ways, we’d really like to work ourselves out of a job!”

The conference runs Friday evening and all day Saturday.