Aug 15, 2020

Ethics Center lecture series promotes academic integrity

Plagiarism and cheating plague campuses across the nation—and Fresno State is no exception. To raise awareness between faculty and students, the new Ethics Center on campus is hosting a series of lectures throughout the semester focused on Academic Integrity.

Almost three years after the implementation of the Campus Honor Code, the university is now eagerly trying to discourage students from traveling down the unethical route.

“Our culture is very outcome-oriented,” said Andrew Fiala, an associate professor of philosophy and the coordinator of the lecture series.

Because of the strong focus on the end result, people may disregard how things are actually done—right or wrong. Sometimes it doesn’t matter to people as long as something good comes of it, Fiala said.

To rearrange that focus, the four-part lecture series wants to stress concepts such as: If a student receives an ‘A’ on an assignment or exam because of cheating, then he or she is likely to be “feeling guilt or shame” afterwards, Fiala said.

Also, it is important for students to be true to themselves because “you have to live with yourself…and it becomes harder for people to trust you” when engaging in such activity, Fiala said.

Other topics such as whistle-blowing—reporting the wrongdoings of another to a person of authority—and the benefits of learning things the right way the first time around, will also be addressed.

Launching off the first lecture on Sept. 12 was Ida M. Jones, a professor in the Craig School of Business who addressed the issue of how sometimes “students don’t have a clear understanding of plagiarism and what it means.”

If a student is unable to fully grasp the idea of what plagiarism is, then it makes it harder for him or her avoid it, Jones said.

Jones said she believes in giving students who are caught cheating a second chance, depending on the severity of the situation.

She responds to plagiarism in a way where she does not attack the student, but instead provides that student with information to help avoid future problems.

Though Wednesday’s turnout wasn’t “a bad number,” with about 50 students, faculty and administrators in attendance, Jones does hope for a greater turnout the next time around.

For those who could not attend but want to view her lecture, a video will be available on the Ethics Center Web site.

The next lecture is only a few weeks away Oct. 3.

James Schmidtke, associate professor of management in the Craig School of Business, will discuss the issues surrounding whistle-blowing such as why people should “blow the whistle.”

He believes everyone loses when someone cheats because it isn’t fair when cheating students receive the same grade as those who put forth the effort to study.

Schmidtke said people do not want to be ostracized for “snitching” or “ratting someone out,” but “if someone is cheating…do we [society] really want them?”

Later next month another lecture, titled Professional Ethics: Resolving Ethical Issues at School, will be presented by Jacques Benninga, director of the university’s Bonner Center for Character and Education.

Benninga said the main issue he sees is the lack of adherence to the principals of honor at the university.

“It really lacks interpretation on the part of many students, and even some faculty, in terms of holding students to ethical standards,” Benninga said.

By teaching students what to do in certain situations ahead of time, particularly those focusing on ethical problems, then it is more likely that they will make the right decision, Benninga said.

Rounding out the series on Nov. 7 will be Barbara LaBossiere, assistant professor of philosophy, with her lecture on The Virtues of Doing it the Right Way.

“I’m actually going to explore why it’s irrational to cheat in comparison to actually just doing the work in the first place,” LaBossiere said. “I try to reason with students, not just keep informing them not to cheat and it’s against the university’s policy, but…it’s against their own interests as people.”

Instead of taking time and energy to strategize a way of looking at another student’s paper during an exam or memorizing a stolen answer key, students should use those resources toward learning and understanding the material, LaBossiere said.

Schmidtke said he hopes students become aware of these issues.

“If we’re going to try to improve the integrity of the campus, it has to start with the students,” he said.


Each lecture is free and open to the public, starting at noon in the Alice Peters Auditorium at the University Business Center. For more information, visit

Oct. 3: “Whistle-Blowing in Academica”
by James Schmidke

Oct. 24: “Professional Ethics: Resolving Issues at School”
by Jacques Benninga

Nov. 7: “The Virtues of Doing it the Right Way”
by Barbara LaBossiere

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