Prof disappointed in Channels Academic Integrity coverage

Channels Opinion Page | Letter to the Editor

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To the Editors of The Channels:

I was disappointed to read Austin Ambrose’s recent story “Faculty discusses changes to SBCC academic integrity policy” in The Channels today. (https://www.thechannels.org/news/2017/03/09/faculty-discusses-changes-to-sbcc-academic-integrity-policy/) This story is in the News section, but the mocking negativity it displays toward its topic makes it seem like it should be in the Opinion section instead.

The story begins by highlighting the “[l]aughter and disapproving groans” that “filled the Academic Senate meeting,” and by pointing out the back-and-forth history of this document’s revisions, thereby implying impatience on the Senate’s part that faculty working on this document cannot get it right. This is not an accurate depiction of the situation.

The story details a disagreement about one aspect of this policy that involves an alleged lack of academic professionalism on the part of instructors, erroneously making it sound like Senators are claiming that instances of academic dishonesty are more about unprofessional instructors than about dishonest students.

Perhaps most disturbingly, the story ends with a misleading claim that the policy “was once again sent back to the drawing board.” This strongly implies that the current draft is being discarded, as have others before it, which is not true. When multiple governance groups work separately on a document like this, it is normal procedure for changes made by one group to be sent back to the other group(s) for approval. This is the collegial and responsible way to handle matters of such importance, and every faculty member I’ve worked with on the Academic Policies Committee takes their role in these matters very seriously. While laughter and groans may sometimes arise in our meetings, and we may wish our work on a document like this were complete, every one of us then resumes our thoughtful and rigorous focus on creating fair policies to cover difficult situations.

Our academic integrity policy is as much about protecting the value of honest students’ work as it is about catching so-called cheaters. It does faculty members who respect students and who take our governance roles seriously a disservice to repeatedly imply that our hard work is actually just ineptitude.

Sincerely,
Robbie Fischer
Assistant Professor
Department of Biological Sciences
Santa Barbara City College
[email protected]

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