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Cohen & Ibrahim, Change, May/June 2008

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The importance of integrity in higher education

Integrity has become a "hot topic." Hardly a week goes by without press reports of some dramatic breach of integrity.

Enron, WorldCom, Tyco, Arthur Anderson, Martha Stewart and others have become household examples of "The Cheating Culture," the title of David Callahan's recent book.

Callahan argues that cheating is rampant, pervasive and will not go away as long as the stakes remain high in a "winner-take-all society."

Integrity, too, is woven throughout the fiber of higher education. As a community of learners, we show respect for one another and for ourselves by presenting our work authentically, rather than disguising the work of others as if it were ours.

Why should we care? Why is integrity important to the university, specifically, and to society more generally?

A university's mission is to educate the next generation to carry on our society and advance it to the next level. When we educate students who become teachers, nurses, engineers, systems analysts, financial advisors and other professionals, we count on those individuals to have learned and prepared to practice those professions well.

Some day, you may find yourself in a hospital attended by a nurse who graduated from Purdue Calumet. Or, you might use a computer system administered by one of our graduates. Your children may learn mathematics from a Purdue Calumet secondary education graduate. Perhaps some of our engineering alumni will be counted on to help secure the regional power grid from a blackout.

Whatever the role, our university commitment is to produce graduates who learn with integrity and use their knowledge to make society better. In short, the public relies on us to produce individuals who have the knowledge and skills we say they have when we grant their degree. We take that responsibility seriously.

Sincerely,

Howard Cohen
Chancellor



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