Upholding Academic Integrity in Challenging Times

The 2020 COVID-19 situation has created challenging times for our staff, faculty and students. We understand from decades of research that integrity is most difficult to uphold when there are added stressors and pressures, and when we feel that our health and safety are at risk.

Here are some tips for Excelling with Integrity in these challenging times and even when no one is watching.

Tip 1. Pay close attention to assignment/exam instructions and follow them exactly. If an action isn’t explicitly allowed, assume that by engaging in that action, you would be violating academic integrity.

Tip 2. Sign an Integrity Pledge yourself and/or if provided by your Instructor; research has shown that reminding ourselves of our own values/integrity can help reduce temptations.

Tip 3. Before engaging in any action during the exam, run your action through these 3 tests:

  1. is what I’m about to do honest, fair, respectful, responsible and trustworthy?
  2. Is what I’m about to do allowed by this specific exam instructions or UC San Diego’s academic integrity policy?
  3. if the professor or my TA were standing right here watching me, would I still do this?

If the answer is NO to any of these questions, don’t do it!

Tip 4. Be aware of human tendencies to “rationalize” behaviors by saying things like “well, everyone else is probably doing it” or “it’s okay given the current situation” or “it’s not that big of a deal”. Those are things we tell ourselves to convince us that it is “okay” to cheat “just this one time”.

Tip 5. Remember that, in the long-run, one grade on one exam is not worth violating your own integrity.

To refresh yourself on skills for upholding your academic integrity, consult these sources:

Integrity Tutorial - https://moodle.ucsd.edu/mod/scorm/view.php?id=118

Strategies & Tools to Prevent Plagiarism - https://ucsd.libguides.com/plagiarism

Collaborating with Integrity - https://moodle.ucsd.edu/mod/scorm/view.php?id=109



Integrity and ethics are core principles guiding all of UCSD’s activities (UCSD Strategic Plan [pdf]).

In support of the UC’s Statement of Ethical Values (pdf), “Excel with Integrity is our pledge to not only strive to be excellent, but strive to be excellent with integrity.

UCSD affirms the International Center for Academic Integrity’s definition --- having the courage to uphold honesty, respect, responsibility, fairness and trustworthiness even when it is difficult to do so.

Excelling with integrity means that we aim for the highest possible achievement using only honest, respectful, responsible, fair, and trustworthy methods. And, it means that we affirm that no external measurements of “excellence” (e.g., grades, awards, trophies, publications) are worth more than having the courage to be honest, trustworthy, fair, respectful and responsible.

Integrity matters for so many reasons, but here are three:

  1. UC San Diego's academic community constructs new knowledge and invents solutions to perennial world problems. Society trusts that we do this in morally responsible ways with the utmost transparency, fairness, and responsibility. Without integrity, we fail to meet those expectations, the reputation of UCSD is threatened, and the dangers we pose to society are significant.

  2. Society relies on the UCSD degree to mean something - that a graduate has the requisite knowledge and abilities to perform in a professional role. Without integrity, we fail to meet those expectations, the reputation of UCSD is threatened and the value of a UCSD degree is diminished.

  3. Faculty and students have to be able to trust each other to uphold their responsibilities. Students have to be able to trust that faculty have designed their classes and assessments with the students’ learning in mind, and faculty have to trust that students have completed their assessments honestly and fairly. Without integrity, we fail to meet those expectations, and the freedom to complete our work without constant supervision will be taken away.