ME Student Academic Integrity/Conduct Commitment Statement
The School of Mechanical Engineering at Purdue University believes that academic integrity and appropriate personal conduct are indispensable values of the educational mission of the institution. For students, learning is the most important goal, and it is critical that all students embrace ethical values and principles of our institution and profession, along with rejecting academic dishonesty in all learning endeavors. When not addressed, academic misconduct devalues the work of other individuals and hurts the reputation of the university and the value of a Purdue University degree. Likewise, it is important that all of us conduct ourselves in a professional and an appropriate manner at all times. While this document specifically addresses students, at Purdue University, all members of the community are responsible for upholding and promoting academic integrity and mutual respect for all.
According to the Purdue University Code of Student Conduct, dishonesty in connection with any University activity is prohibited. Examples of dishonesty include, but are not limited to, cheating, plagiarism (including on co-op reports), forging others’ signatures, or knowingly furnishing false information. In addition, students are expected to be aware of specific course policies as they relate to collaboration and group work, and that violating such policies may also be considered a violation of Purdue University's Code of Student Conduct. Furthermore, sharing of personal work and allowing unauthorized copying is also cheating. Students should seek clearly written clarification at the earliest possible opportunity from my instructor regarding the differences between authorized collaboration and encouraged group work versus cheating and plagiarism. For a more complete definition of academic dishonesty and tips on avoiding claims of dishonesty, students are encouraged to review the document “Academic Integrity: A Guide for Students” which can be found at:
Similarly, students need to understand the importance of fostering a positive and supportive climate based on trust and mutual respect. As such, disruptive and inappropriate behaviors such as intimidation, stalking, hazing, harassment, verbal abuse, etc. are not acceptable.
Potential Consequences for Integrity/Conduct Violations
If a student violation occurs, there are a number of potential consequences that may be assigned by the University, the School and/or the instructor.
If a student violates the Code of Student Conduct, University disciplinary action will occur, which may include probation, suspension or even expulsion from Purdue University.
Likewise, a violation may cause a student to lose their eligibility to participate in School-related programs including but not limited to scholarships, the co-op program, the study abroad program (including GEARE), undergraduate grader, undergraduate teaching assistant, etc. Furthermore, instructors may assign sanctions in their courses resulting in the lowering of a grade or even assigning a failing grade. Finally, such sanctions can also negatively impact graduate school applications, especially if there is a transcript notation for academic dishonesty.
Personal Commitment Statement
As a student in the School of Mechanical Engineering, I have read and understood this Commitment Statement and I am personally committing to the standards of Purdue University by:
- Being ethical and honest in all of my academic work,
- Taking personal responsibility for what I say and what I do,
- Helping foster a positive and supportive educational climate based on trust and mutual respect,
- Seeking immediate clarification if any stated policies are ambiguous or confusing, and
- Rejecting peer pressure when others seek to use my personal work inappropriately.
Likewise, once graduated as a proud Purdue Boilermaker, I will strive to uphold my professional standards as stated in the ASME Code of Ethics of Engineers
Case Studies on the Importance of Academic Integrity and Personal Conduct
Case studies provide effective illustrations of why professional integrity is so important. Two brief case studies are provided below as an illustration of the potential consequences of failing to conduct yourself in a professional and ethical manner. The first case study is a professional example of how in engineering practice the potential implications and consequences can be much more severe than what students are typically accustomed to experiencing. The second cased study is an academic example illustrating how unethical conduct can take a student much further than you want to go and cost you much more than you want to pay. In both case studies, these are real situations with the academic case being a composite of several cases. The names of those involved have been excluded to protect their privacy.
Professional Case Study – The Building Inspector
Students need to understand that at Purdue if they make a mistake, their privacy is largely protected by the University due to Federal Privacy Laws. However, in engineering practice, they have no such protections. A violation could result in termination from their job, criminal charges, and even public humiliation from the press. Consider the case of an engineer from Jackson, New Jersey. He was a professionally licensed engineer in the State of New York working for the Department of Buildings (DOB). Sadly on May 17, 2015 in Manhattan, terracotta (clay bricks) from a building’s façade (the face of the building) fell 8 stories striking a grandmother, and her 2 year-old granddaughter, who were sitting on a bench on the sidewalk below. The grandmother suffered significant injuries but recovered. Unfortunately, her granddaughter suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) which resulted in her death the following day. An investigation by the Department of Investigations (DOI) revealed that the engineer had filed a report in 2011 stating that the façade was “safe.” After deeper examination the DOI determined that the engineer had never actually visited the building in question nor had he ever reviewed any of the building’s maintenance records. He had falsely filed the report to essentially save time and cut corners. The engineer was subsequently charged with “Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree”, a class E felony punishable by up to four years in prison. Ironically, the DOI uncovered numerous failures in the protocols established to ensure the facades were properly inspected and safe. Sadly these numerous failures resulted in the death of a toddler.
Clearly, this individual, an experienced professional engineer, had no intention of causing someone’s death, especially a toddler. In his mind, he likely rationalized that this was an innocuous short cut to save him time. Perhaps he even made habit of this behavior assuming no harm, no foul. However, it only takes one accident of this magnitude to remind others of the importance of each and every inspection.
The important lessons to learn from this case study are that, in professional practice, an engineer has no expectation of anonymity. Serious lapses in ethical judgment may and often will be publically reported not only within the company but also throughout the community. Furthermore, the consequences are not only of public record, but are much more severe than sanctions experienced within an academic environment. Such consequences can include immediate termination from a job (and a loss of a livelihood), personal and professional financial losses (e.g., facing a law suit), and even facing criminal charges (e.g., including jail time). While as in this case, for a period of time, it appeared the engineer was getting away with taking short-cuts, eventually his unethical conduct caught up to him. Sadly, his conduct ultimately resulted in the death of a 2 year old toddler.
Academic Case Study – The Slippery Slope
A freshman student came to Purdue and generally performed well in his First—Year Engineering classes (over a 3.0 GPA). However, in his CS 159 class he shared code with a fellow student and was caught. This apparently was a wide-spread practice of a significant number of students. The students were all given an “F” grade for the semester and reported to the Office of the Dean of Students (ODOS). The student was placed on “Probated Suspension” for one year, required to take an on-line ethics short course, and sign an ethics recommitment statement.
When the student eventually matriculated into ME, his grades started to decline especially when compared to what he was accustomed to receiving in high school. One of the things the student noted was that a number of peers were copying homework solutions off of each other. As time went on, it seemed that no one detected this copying and he felt disadvantaged. Eventually he talked with some friends and they decided to start copying off of each other to save time and effort. Throughout the semester, they were able to successfully share the homework load without detection, thus improving their final grade. In the following semester, they decided to again copy on their homework starting on day one. For several weeks, they successfully copied each other’s homework without incident. However, around the middle of the semester, their instructor contacted both students and asked them to meet with him. He showed them the homework solutions and asked them why their solutions were identical (even to the 4th and 5th decimal place). The professor also had collected several homework sets so he knew this wasn’t just a single occurrence. They claimed that they worked together and this why their solutions appeared to be so similar. The professor told them that it is ok to collaborate together but when preparing their solution, it needed to be their own work. In other words, no two solutions should be identical. The professor gave the students a zero on their homework average for the entire semester (worth one letter grade) and told them he would be reporting them to the Office of the Dean of Students (ODOS). The ODOS staff held a Community Standards Board meeting with the student and found him responsible for the infraction. Because of the repeat offense, the student was “Suspended” from Purdue for one year.
After his suspension period, the student returned to Purdue. Everything went fine until his junior year (perhaps the toughest part of the ME Curriculum). Again his grades were not meeting his expectations. Perhaps he was also feeling pressure from his parents as well. He just felt that he needed to do something to improve his grades. In the following semester, he received a particularly bad grade in a core class. He knew this exam was graded by TAs, so at the recommendation of a buddy he decided to alter his exam and re-submit his exam for a regrade (apparently his friend had successfully done this in the past). While the professor and the TA were suspicious, they had no concrete evidence to disprove the student’s assertion that he deserved more points since it appeared that there was work for which he should have received credit. They gave the student the higher grade. On the final exam, the student again altered the final in an attempt to further boost his grade and resubmitted it for a regrade. However, unbeknownst to the student, the instructor had made a copy of his graded exam before returning it. Seeing the regrade request, the instructor knew immediately what the student had done. This time when the instructor met with the student he informed him that he would be receiving a grade of “F” and was reporting him to ODOS. The student begged the professor not to submit the ODOS report knowing his situation was serious. Nevertheless, the professor submitted an incident report. Again, the student had to meet with the Community of Standards Board. However, because of his repeated infractions and lack of learning anything from his previous incidences, the student was “Expelled” from Purdue.
The important lessons to learn from this case study are that, at times, some students may seemingly get away with cheating on homework, projects, and/or exams. However, eventually the this student’s’ conduct was eventually detected and when it was, the consequences were severe because the student had not changed his behavior after his first dishonesty incident. Also, many students feel as though their actions are justified because of perceived unfairness in instructor grading or due to observing other students cheating. They rationalize that their actions harm no one else. Yet having a level playing field should be our community’s goal. If someone observes cheating in any form, they are encouraged to report the incident (even anonymously). This would be the appropriate response rather than engage in cheating yourself. Finally, some students make a small error in judgment which often leads to more serious infractions of cheating, especially if early infractions go undetected. Sadly, cheating will often take you places you don’t want to go and result in consequences you don’t want to experience.