A Letter to Students Regarding Academic Integrity

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COVID-19 and UBC's response

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October 5, 2020

Dear UBC Science students,

As you know, we have all had to adapt to new teaching and learning practices in the face of a global health pandemic.  We recognize that this has created significant challenges, both for students and instructors, as we navigate uncharted terrain and explore new approaches to remain digitally connected. Over the past few months, instructors at UBC Science have put enormous effort into developing virtual resources so that we can continue providing you with a world-class science education. We remain firmly committed to this educational mission.

As students, the expectation for your integrity and honesty has not changed with our pivot to online learning; you are expected to engage in the material from your courses to continue to develop as a scholar and as a human being. You’re expected to demonstrate your knowledge and comprehension through the assignments, midterms and exams that are incorporated in each of your courses.

You were each admitted to UBC Science because you have what it takes to be successful here. Thank you for the way that you are earnestly engaging in your studies and for finding new strategies to adapt to our online learning environment.

This adaptability is good experience and a transferable skill that will carry forward with you into the future – in just one example, adaptability is a skill that our staff and faculty have leveraged significantly in recent months to continue to provide the learning experience and support that helps you to be successful.

Unfortunately, there are a small number of students who have exploited the current situation in dishonest ways, attempting to advance through their programs without putting in the necessary effort. These students have engaged in a variety of unethical behaviours, including stealing quiz and exam answers, working together on independent assignments/quizzes/tests, and paying professional "tutors” to complete their work.  These actions are a clear and flagrant breach of UBC’s Academic Honesty and Standards and Academic Misconduct policies. We have received a number of messages from students reporting instances of apparent academic misconduct and providing evidence that is now being used in various ongoing investigations.  I would encourage all of you to bring any concerns to me, by email at adstudents@science.ubc.ca. Any information about potential academic misconduct will be treated as confidential and shared only with course instructors and relevant parties.

We remain committed to identifying all cases of academic misconduct and taking the necessary disciplinary action as appropriate.  We are currently using all of the means at our disposal, including a variety of software tools to identify cases of plagiarism, cheating and “contract test taking.” Instances of cheating have resulted in the assignment of a failing grade for a course and other more serious academic discipline, including suspension from the University. 

In this time of online learning, problems of increased academic misconduct are certainly not restricted to UBC.  Some of you may be aware that Burnaby police recently arrested an individual in an alleged cheating scheme. We have also received reports that some “tutoring” companies may be blackmailing their users, with requests for additional payments under threat of disclosure to university officials.

For the vast majority of our students who approach their studies with honesty and integrity, do not be discouraged by the actions of a small minority.  Yes, cheating is unfair, but in the end, these dishonest students are only harming their own future, robbing themselves of a world-class education and the ability to gain deeper insights into the world around them. They are throwing away an opportunity that is reserved for a small fraction of the world’s population. 

Each of you chose to further your studies as a student in the UBC Faculty of Science. As Dean Aronson shared when welcoming you to our faculty at Imagine UBC last month, UBC Science is where you explore your ideas and discover your passion. University is meant to be challenging and take you outside of your comfort zone. You will be required to work hard in order to succeed and grow. This type of effort is what it takes to truly learn. The vast majority of you have assumed this challenge and are participating in your studies with integrity and honesty – keep up the great work!

I’m proud of the way that our community of Science students have risen to the many challenges connected to the unique circumstances of this pandemic. To borrow from a common phrase, while we’re not all on the same boat, we’re all weathering the same storm. I am confident there will be many more ups and downs for all of us in the coming months, but you’ve shown that you’re highly capable.  As we navigate this rough water together, we will uphold the principles of academic integrity for you and your peers so that your experience can continue to be academically rewarding.

Sincerely,

Dr Ian Cavers
Associate Dean, Students
Faculty of Science