About Integrity at Western

We, the faculty, students, administration, and staff of Western Washington University, are deeply committed to integrity as a fundamental principle of education. This can only be achieved when we commit to integrity throughout all of our activities at the University, including our work, academics, and campus life. To this end, each of us has a responsibility to be fair and honest. As a community of students, faculty, staff, and administrators, we recognize that our actions reflect on each of us as individuals, and on Western as a whole. As such, we honor integrity as vital to our community and the ideals of liberal education.

What does it mean to have integrity?

First, we use the term “integrity” rather than “honesty” because integrity is a broader, more holistic concept. Integrity applies to all of the principles, values, and behaviors that contribute to good character, including, for example, honesty, fairness, respect, courage, and responsibility.

Integrity matters because it represents the core of what we simply but significantly call a “good person,” one who is admired and respected for having a strong character. We exhibit integrity within the classroom by taking credit only for the work we have done and crediting the work of others.

Similarly, we demonstrate integrity by treating one another with fairness and respect regardless of the setting. We all benefit within a community that cultivates a culture of integrity: where individuals are accountable for their actions (or inaction), where everyone can trust that processes are equitable, and where mistakes are addressed with support and an opportunity for growth.

Why does integrity matter?

Integrity and personal responsibility are important parts of the personal and professional worlds in which the Western community engages. Integrity matters when we interact, as it requires that we be respectful and considerate of each other.

Integrity matters in our professions because we depend on fairness and honesty to grow and thrive. And our honest approach to academic work enables us to extend our minds, to commit to excellence, and to become true scholars.

Dishonest, disrespectful, and unfair behavior is not victimless; it creates an uneven playing field, reduces trust between colleagues, and lowers the standards we share as a community.  

What shows a lack of integrity?

Cheating, for one, lacks integrity.  We use the word cheating, defined by Merriam Webster Dictionary as “to deprive of something valuable by the use of deceit or fraud,” because when a person cheats, someone else is deprived of their right to fairness in academic endeavors. Violating the terms of assignments, representing someone else's work as her or his own, or copying material from an external source (such as the internet) without giving credit to that source are instances of cheating.

Integrity is not limited to plagiarism, using artificial intelligence (AI) platforms, or looking at someone else’s answers during an exam. It is needed by everyone at Western: in the classroom, on field trips, in the community, at play, and in our daily interactions with one another. We encourage the Western community to make integrity a part of a wider discussion on the kind of community we want to be rather than as simply focusing on how to avoid cheating.

Active Minds Changing Lives

Martin Luther King Jr.’s statement—"Intelligence plus character--that is the true goal of education,” embodies Western’s motto, “Active Minds Changing Lives.” As active minds, we must be intellectually responsible, and to take on the challenge of changing lives, we must act with integrity. At the same time,  to take on the challenge of changing lives, a liberal education must also foster integrity.

Rights and Responsibilities

All members of the Western community have both rights and responsibilities:  they have the right to be treated fairly and to have support and representation if accused of violating university policies related to integrity.

They also have the responsibility to exhibit honest behavior and to encourage others to do the same. What if you become aware of a fellow classmate who is not living up to the principles of academic integrity, but you sense that the instructor is not aware of it?  What should you do?

In short, the values of integrity include courage, the emotional strength to turn belief into action in the face of opposition, or undesirable consequences. We freely admit how difficult this is, but your answer should be, “I’ll say something to that student”, and if worse comes to worst, you should tell the instructor.

Faculty who suspect students of dishonest behavior must address the issue with the student by use of the official university procedures. This not only ensures continuity in dealing with such issues, but it provides students a formal opportunity for representation and appeal.  Faculty should note that these incidents do not appear in a student’s academic record.