Academic integrity essentially means "intellectual honesty": honesty in the use of information, in formulating arguments, and in other activities related to the pursuit of knowledge and understanding. It is a core principle that underpins how we live and learn in a community of inquiry. As members of an academic community, we are entitled to a wide degree of freedom in the pursuit of scholarly interests. With that freedom, however, comes the responsibility to uphold the high ethical standards of academic conduct. American University's Academic Integrity Code sets forth standards of academic conduct, defines academic violations, and outlines the adjudication process for academic offenses.
The Center for Academic Integrity defines academic integrity as "a commitment, even in the face of adversity, to five fundamental values: honesty, trust, fairness, respect, and responsibility." Academic excellence fundamentally depends upon these values. Every participant in a community of inquiry has the obligation to support practices that promote academic integrity, prevent dishonesty, and punish offenses when they occur.
A sound education is built through many laboring minds doing honest intellectual work, but its enduring value depends upon the integrity of its construction. By analogy, the structure of our home is as solid as the integrity of the builder's work. Dishonest intellectual work-cheating-undermines an individual's education as well as the foundation of our society. In fact, it is downright injurious. Would you want to live in a house built by an architect who was dishonest in school? Would you trust the structure's integrity?
Academic communities expect their members to author original and authentic work, no matter what the field of learning or level of experience. Like any significant endeavor, learning and scholarship involve both individual and collective efforts. Knowledge creation necessarily entails dialogue with an intellectual community; acknowledging the role of particular contributors to one's own work is a fundamental academic responsibility. Education empowers and encourages the individual to discover and express his or her own intellectual voice in respectful dialogue with other voices. We are each called to take pride in our own ideas and to respect the work of others. Be original and thoughtful. It's your degree!