Educating for Honesty

Academic honesty is a critical issue for all educators.  In the world of post-graduate professional education, it plays a paramount role.  According to some studies, more than half of MBA graduates admit to having cheated on an exam or paper at least once during their program.  This is an alarming figure.  Cheating deprives honest and hard-working students of the fair return on their efforts, something confounded by our “curve”-system where relative performance matters most.  More importantly, however, by tolerating cheating, our insistence as educators that managers ought to honestly and responsibly manage entrusted resources in the best interest of shareholders and stakeholders is fatally undermined.

Here at IE we take the issue of academic honesty extremely seriously.  Since 2005, we have a binding Code of Ethical Conduct, students participate in a mandatory Ethics Workshop at the start of their program, and any potential transgression is adjudicated by a specially-designed Ethics Committee comprised of an equal number of students and professors.  It is regrettable that the committee must deal each year with a number of cases from across the different degree programs at IE and that it has had to impose sanctions ranging from warnings and failing grades to one-year suspensions and (in one case) expulsion from the school.  But doing so underscores the central importance of academic honesty and creates an environment in which the great majority of students know and feel that it is safe to be honest.

Still, we can and must do more.  Our institutional commitment to academic honesty is only as strong as your commitment as faculty members to uphold these standards in your courses.  Talk to your students about the importance of academic honesty, at the start of the course – as part of the “learning contract” between educator and students – and before important deliverables or exams.  Design exams and assignments in ways that make cheating difficult and/or easy to detect.  Be vigilant during exams.  Scan papers and reports using the turn-it-in plagiarism detection software that is built into campus online.  And please contact the program direction if you detect a case of suspected cheating or plagiarism.  In the next few months, Luis Solis and his team will be offering workshops to help you manage this challenge even better.  Making the effort is definitely worthwhile to ensure that we continue to offer excellent professional education as we develop honest and responsible future leaders.

Thank you very much.

David Bach