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Amidst the return of online classes, Cornell released a new academic integrity policy that focuses on trust.

April 8, 2020

Switch to Online Learning Prompts New Academic Integrity Document

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Before classes resumed on Monday, students and faculty received a statement via Canvas urging them to commit to a revised set academic integrity principles in preparation for the switch to virtual instruction.

The statement addressed concerns about academic integrity frequently brought up by students, including how the switch to online instruction could lead to increased cheating. It also highlighted potential issues with “Zoom bombing,” a new phenomenon in which trolls hijack online meetings to spread hate speech.

“All members of the Cornell community are being challenged: faculty and staff hastily converting to virtual instruction and students coping with the loss of personal connection and in-person education,” the document read, which, among other things, asked students to uphold a standard of professionalism online and faculty to pay “careful attention to workload, scheduling policies, and time zones.”

The statement was drafted by Prof. Charles Van Loan, computer science, Prof. Neema Kudva, city and regional planning, and a select number of students who are a part of teaching award committees.

It was then approved and endorsed by the Student Assembly, the Graduate and Professional Students Assembly, the Faculty Senate and the Academic Integrity Hearing Board before being disseminated to all Cornell students.

“When people are under stress, they lose their sense of better judgement,” Van Loan said on the need to publish a new set of guidelines. “And I can’t think of a higher stress scene than what we have right now.”

While some S.A. members voiced concern that the statement seemed to be geared more towards faculty concerns, Van Loan stressed that it is intended to set expectations for both students and instructors.

“The success of this semester depends on both students and faculty,” he said.

As of now, no official discussions have taken place concerning how academic integrity violations will be dealt with virtually, though Van Loan mentioned the possibility of hearings being held over Zoom.

Liel Sterling ‘21, Cornell student advocate, expressed appreciation for the call for compassion from both the faculty and students.

“The status-quo, competitive Cornell mindset frequently perpetuated by faculty, while never positive, is not acceptable right now when we are all taking classes under drastically different conditions,” Sterling said.

Echoing Liel, Kudva stressed the need for both students and faculty to be empathetic towards one another in the coming months.

“It emphasized the importance of trust at a time like this,” Kudva said. “The students had to trust that the faculty were doing their best and the faculty have to trust that students would do their best.”