In the two years of virtual learning, violations of academic integrity have risen to alarming numbers. According to the University of Toronto Mississauga’s (UTM) annual report on academic offences released during the Academic Affairs Committee’s May 9, 2022 meeting, offence cases totaled 1,799 for the 2020-2021 academic year. This is over a 200 per cent increase from any year between 2011 and 2019.
For the 2020-2021 academic year, 45.6 per cent of cases were first-year students, followed by 28.6 per cent for second-year students, 14.0 per cent for third-year students, and 11.8 per cent for fourth-year students. The abnormally large proportion of lower year students suggests a lack of familiarity with the importance of academic integrity at UTM.
Starting September 13, 2022, the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) will be hosting its annual Academic Advocacy Week, giving students the opportunity to learn about the academic resources offered at UTM.
“The UTMSU aims to support students in various ways to ensure that they are staying on track with their academic journey,” says the UTMSU Vice-President University Affairs Suraqa Noor as she explains the rationale of the students’ union hosting Academic Advocacy Week.
The events will take place exclusively in-person, a stark difference from last year’s fully online iteration.
The UTMSU has planned numerous workshops for the week. On September 13, students may participate in the “Academic Integrity Q&A” from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. and the “How to Petition and Appeal with Downtown Legal Services” workshop from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. On September 15, students may learn about avoiding plagiarism through a workshop organized by the Robert Gillespie Academic Skills Centre (RGASC), which will run from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.
As mentioned, legal resources will be discussed during the week, delving deep into the topic of academic offenses and methods of handling accusations of violating academic integrity. Downtown Legal Services, the U of T Faculty of Law’s community law clinic, provides assistance in matters relating to academic offences, all free of charge.
A third-year biology student, Loridee De Villa, believes that the university does a lot to inform students of what constitutes to an academic offence and its consequences: “I think UTM provides students with a detailed account of how academic integrity functions and how offenses are punished within the university.”
De Villa states that she still feels that “the university spends more time telling students that their work should be honest, rather than implementing policies that would reduce the likelihood of students making these offenses. For example, allowing test retakes during illness or having assessments that do not carry an extreme amount of weight.”
Regardless, there are several resources and support systems that students can use to maintain academic integrity. “Students can also speak to a professor or TA about their academic integrity concerns, seek assistance from the RGASC or the Academic Integrity Unit which has a bunch of resources available to students and, speak to us, the UTMSU,” says Noor.
Moving forward, the UTMSU encourages students to proactively learn about the academic support offered on campus as to make it easier for them to deal with any academic-related challenges encountered throughout their time in university.