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Understanding the place of integrity

In professional practice

Daphna Motro describes the integrity of databases, which are sources of reliable information, using two clear and distinct words: validity and completeness. These two descriptions jointly imply that a source which has integrity can be trusted and relied upon at the same time. These descriptions are the strengths and bases of the continued existence of any source of reliable information, such as the academic institutions which create and disseminate knowledge.

People go to schools because they trust that they can give them knowledge and that the information received from the schools is true and reliable. Integrity is therefore the foundation of the academic institutions, and Motro describes it as ‘the whole truth’ (completeness) and ‘nothing but the truth’ (validity). Unfortunately, as valuable as integrity is to the human race, it also seems to be the most compromised of all values.

Today, there is a wind of revolution currently blowing across the academe, and no part of the globe is exempted from it. Just before the publication of the only book in Nigeria written on the subject;  Academic Integrity: Study & Guide, the vice chancellor of a top-ranking private university in Nigeria was allegedly suspended for academic fraud, and just before then, another professor in a public university of agriculture was expelled for plagiarism. Prior to that, two professors in another university and a respected senior public officer were also alleged of plagiarizing by a US professor. In the previous year, the news was agog with the allegation of plagiarism levied against a senior public official in Germany and a whole lot of other instances.

It is true that the global society is corrupt and instances of immorality are in the news every day and everywhere, but the academe cannot afford to be caught in this web of corruption for too long; it has to stand out to be different in order to fulfill its role of social transformation.

Therefore, that transformation seems to have started happening from within the academic institutions, which are now calling their own students, faculty members, and graduates to the question of integrity. To my mind, the whole world is ready for the academe to be radically different from the larger society on the subject of integrity, and Africa seems as ready also. Indeed, academic integrity should transcend geography and culture; this is the right spirit and it is the best approach.

Academic integrity underlies the rigorous academic standards. Understanding academic integrity is important for academia as a whole, as it helps to support productive learning and good scholarship. However, this is also important for an individual’s personal character development.

Regardless of the course of study or the type of programme, a student may take on many different roles within the academic community or in the professional world while currently studying at an institution. Both students and professionals would find academic integrity beneficial to their individual work and the development of enviable character in their academic, professional and social lives. Academic integrity will also be useful in other life endeavors that involve working and relating with other people in circumstances that require honesty, trust, respect and responsibility.

Maintaining academic integrity is important for academia as a whole, and should underlie all academic work. Without integrity and honesty, the quality of academic work, degrees, and institutions is lowered.

Olugbenro Oyekan is Dean of School/Vice-President at the International School of Management (ISM) Lagos.

“Without academic integrity, neither the genuine innovations of individual nor the progress of a given field of study can adequately be assessed, and the very foundation of scholarship itself is undermined. Academic integrity, for all these reasons, is an essential link in the process of intellectual advancement.” (Student Judicial Services at the University of Texas, USA).

Generally speaking, academic integrity helps people to ensure that they receive acknowledgement for their creative efforts. Truly original (or academically honest) people have put in time and effort to get to where they are today, and their work should receive acknowledgement if someone else uses it. These standards help to ensure that people receive credit that is due for work done and from which others benefit. Indeed, there are many people who put a great deal of effort and time into their initiatives. Their effort should be recognized through consistent and accurate recognition given to their contributions. It is important to remember that everyone regardless of age, sex, profession, race or status deserves credit for their creative efforts and from which others benefit.

Olugbenro Oyekan

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