Defining integrity

Lance Armstrong was a true American hero. A cancer-survivor and a record-setter who won seven straight Tour De France titles, he literally epitomized the term, “to get back on the bike.” Yet when it was disclosed that he had used performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) during his cycling career, Armstrong was unceremoniously kicked off of his throne and the topic of integrity in sports once again resurfaced.

Just as the baseball stars of the 90’s and early 00’s were made an example of for their rampant steroid use, Armstrong has, and undoubtedly will in the future, feel the wrath of the public, mass media and sports governing bodies because of his cheating. A common thread also connects Armstrong’s cheating and the cheating in baseball with most other situations that lack integrity: They are only discussed when integrity is violated. We seem to avoid the topic of integrity completely, acting as though it is nonexistent until someone violates it. Only then do we address it.

The resurfacing of the topic of integrity cannot stay within the sporting environment. It needs to be raised in all aspects of our lives: In the government, in the economy and, most importantly for students, in academics. We must face up to the topic of integrity now or run the risk of having it blow up in our faces later, just as it has in baseball and in cycling.

During the first day of school, every High School student is required to sign a card affirming their agreement to the content of the Code of Conduct, which includes a section on integrity. However, following that day, the Code of Conduct and that agreement to stay within the boundaries of integrity are put on the back burner, only taken out during the disciplinary process.

As a school, we wait for students to violate the boundaries of integrity before allowing the subject of integrity to resurface. But even then, only the students who have broken the rules are involved in the discussion of integrity. The rest of the community is kept out, blocked from this discussion despite the vast relevance it holds to everyone.

Discipline cases are kept closed; exact violations or punishments are never released. Instead, the Student-Faculty Disciplinary Board (SFDB) only states that they addressed a matter of academic dishonesty. More information must be released. We are not asking for perpetrators to be publically shamed, as their names should still be concealed, but when the topic of integrity is brought up, it holds pertinence to the whole school. The community needs to have a better understanding of what the academic dishonesty consisted of and how it was punished. This would allow a better definition to be given to academic dishonesty and integrity as a whole. With a better definition comes a better understanding. A decrease in issues involving integrity would follow suit, in all likelihood.

However, the definition shouldn’t rely on individual cases of discipline. Instead, as a community, we should constantly be discussing the issue of integrity. Both teachers and students should have equal input in defining the term. It shouldn’t keep a set definition but should change as a reflection of the environment at the school and the thoughts of the community.

Without a better understanding of exactly how we see integrity and the place it has in our community, problems concerning integrity will continue to increase. At this point in the year, the SFDB has already seen nine cases of academic dishonesty. To avoid the issues that have plagued the sporting world, we as a community must take the opposite path the athletes have taken. Instead of waiting to address the issue once it is upon us, we must nip it in the bud. Problems will still arise, outliers will still cheat and get caught, but the severity of the issue will fall. We wouldn’t have to define any academic era at ASL by its cheating. No one would have to feel the need to cheat in order to compete. We would do things fairly, do things by the book; a book that our community created.