Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is the cornerstone of the work of our intellectual community. It is vital that we teach our students both the definition of, and the value of, academic integrity, and that they uphold these principles in all of the work that they do in their academic work at Columbia.

Faculty statement on academic integrity

The Columbia College–General Studies Joint Committee on Instruction (COI) requires every syllabus for courses which include undergraduates to include a statement on academic integrity.

The following statement was developed and endorsed by the Columbia College–General Studies Committee on Instruction, and instructors should feel free to quote the full statement on a syllabus or to adapt its principles in a statement specific to the instructor's policies and writing style.

"The intellectual venture in which we are all engaged requires of faculty and students alike the highest level of personal and academic integrity. As members of an academic community, each one of us bears the responsibility to participate in scholarly discourse and research in a manner characterized by intellectual honesty and scholarly integrity.

Scholarship, by its very nature, is an iterative process, with ideas and insights building one upon the other. Collaborative scholarship requires the study of other scholars' work, the free discussion of such work, and the explicit acknowledgement of those ideas in any work that inform our own. This exchange of ideas relies upon a mutual trust that sources, opinions, facts, and insights will be properly noted and carefully credited.

In practical terms, this means that, as students, you must be responsible for the full citations of others' ideas in all of your research papers and projects; you must be scrupulously honest when taking your examinations; you must always submit your own work and not that of another student, scholar, or internet agent.

Any breach of this intellectual responsibility is a breach of faith with the rest of our academic community. It undermines our shared intellectual culture, and it cannot be tolerated. Students failing to meet these responsibilities should anticipate being asked to leave Columbia."

If instructors prefer to compose their own policy language for their syllabi, they are encouraged to include in some way the following components:

  • The statement should reference the faculty statement on academic integrity;
  • The statement should note that students are expected to uphold the student honor code;
  • The statement should specify the consequences of violating academic integrity principles in your course (for example, whether or not there will be an academic sanction and whether or not the matter will be referred to the University's Student Conduct office);
  • The statement should refer students to the student's guide to academic integrity for more definitions of, and instruction on, the principles of academic integrity.

Undergraduate honor code

To continue to underscore the importance in the work that students produce for their classes, instructors may want to ask all students to affirm their adherence to the code for each piece of work and graded assignment -- for example, by including a restatement of the honor code at the end of written assignments or by signing a printed statement of the honor code in exam blue books.

Columbia College, General Studies, and Columbia Engineering:

The Columbia College Student Council, on behalf of the whole student body, has resolved that maintaining academic integrity is the preserve of all members of our intellectual community – including and especially students. The student councils of the School of General Studies and the School of Engineering and Applied Science made similar resolutions, so that the following Honor Code applies to undergraduate students from all three undergraduate schools of Columbia University:

"We, the undergraduate students of Columbia University, hereby pledge to value the integrity of our ideas and the ideas of others by honestly presenting our work, respecting authorship, and striving not simply for answers but for understanding in the pursuit of our common scholastic goals. In this way, we seek to build an academic community governed by our collective efforts, diligence, and Code of Honor.

I affirm that I will not plagiarize, use unauthorized materials, or give or receive illegitimate help on assignments, papers, or examinations. I will also uphold equity and honesty in the evaluation of my work and the work of others. I do so to sustain a community built around this Code of Honor."

Students are introduced to the honor code before they matriculate to their respective schools, and they are asked to recite and affirm the pledge at their school Convocation ceremonies when they matriculate.

Barnard College:

Barnard College has a similar Honor Code for Barnard students (also generated by students of the school) and a separate set of policies and procedures for Barnard students.

Policy on academic integrity in the virtual and hybrid class environment

The Columbia undergraduate classroom, whether real or virtual, is a vital and dynamic space for learning, sustained by the expectation that the class experience is shared only by participants in the course. The free and respectful exchange of ideas is the foundation of teaching and learning and can occur only if all course participants agree as a matter of academic integrity (subject to standard penalties) to respect the guidelines established below.

To support and sustain the class experience, the joint Columbia College—General Studies Committee on Instruction sets forth the following expectations, pertaining both to course materials and to course meetings:

  • Course materials—including handouts, readings, slides, and attendant materials—must not be broadly shared, distributed, or sold outside the course environment (including on social media) without permission of the instructor. They must be understood as the product of instructors’ intellectual work and treated as the instructors’ property.
  • The contents of class discussion and breakout rooms may not be circulated outside the classroom, in whole or in part, for non-educational purposes (e.g., on social media) or outside the Columbia community. Students are expected to respect the complex dynamics of class discussion and use discretion when repeating the ideas of others outside of the classroom. The audio and visual recordings of class discussion and breakout rooms belong to the course participants and must be understood in the context of the course. This is especially crucial to protect the identity of speakers; to do otherwise can be a form of bullying and can endanger course participants.
  • Recordings of class sessions must not be shared, in whole or in part, with those outside the class. Students are not permitted to record any portion of class sessions without the explicit consent of the instructor.

Instructors who have questions about any aspects of this policy should consult with the academic deans of the relevant schools.

Approved by the CC-GS Committee on Instruction 10/16/20

Academic integrity in course design (policies, assignments, etc.)

While students are always expected to uphold the principles and practices of academic integrity within the context of any course, instructors can also design their courses in ways that promote academic integrity—both in the ways that instructors communicate their expectations and policies and in the ways that instructors construct their course assessments.

Columbia's Center for Teaching and Learning offers helpful guidance for instructors as they engage with their students around matters of academic integrity:

Columbia University's Generative AI Policy

Following are excerpts from the Generative AI Policy issued in January 2024 by the Office of the Provost. The full policy can be found here.

... Generative AI (or “AI”) tools such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Google’s Bard, Stability AI’s Stable Diffusion, and others, have captured the public’s imagination as these tools become widely available for everyday use. Generative AI tools have the capacity to expedite existing processes and make possible new ones. These tools also have the potential to foster student learning and advance many aspects of research and health care delivery. While the University supports the responsible use of AI, these novel tools have notable limitations and present new risks that must be taken into consideration when using these technologies. ...

Particular considerations apply to use of AI by instructors and students. To ensure academic integrity, please refer to this guidance below.

For Students

The following guidance is shared to help support students in navigating the appropriate use of AI in their classes.

  • Absent a clear statement from a course instructor granting permission, the use of Generative AI tools to complete an assignment or exam is prohibited. The unauthorized use of AI shall be treated similarly to unauthorized assistance and/or plagiarism (page 11 of Standards and Discipline).
  • Students are encouraged to speak with their instructors regarding their expectations.

For Instructors

The following guidance is shared to help support faculty in navigating the appropriate use of AI in the classroom.

  • At minimum, it is recommended that faculty share clear expectations at the beginning of each semester through the syllabus, policy distribution, and class discussion on the appropriate use of AI tools. Faculty can encourage students to reach out when they need support rather than risking a potential academic integrity violation. If permitted by the course, encourage students to acknowledge and cite any use of AI applications.
  • It is recommended to develop a course policy about the use of AI tools and what faculty consider to be appropriate and inappropriate in their classes. For example, you may find it useful to include AI discussions in the classroom and online threads. Some instructors have partnered with students as they determine what constitutes appropriate use. This conversation and partnership can create opportunities for instructors and students to talk in detail about the evolution of particular tools, their potential benefits in specific disciplines, and their limitations. It is also an opportunity to be explicit about the course objectives and how the use of AI tools might interfere with or aid students’ learning and their achievement of particular goals.
  • Refer to introductory guidance and considerations for AI tools in the classroom from the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL). Additionally, the CTL offers individual consultations, Faculty AI Labs, and AI Learning Communities by request from schools or departments.
  • Important note about AI detection tools: Since the introduction of AI tools, there has been a parallel rise in tools claiming accurate detection of AI-generated work. As with any form of detection software, there are risks of misidentification, which can have consequences in the classroom. These products are best used with careful consideration and as one of many ways to work with students. It is also important to include the use of these tools in any discussion with students around course policies, making clear why and how such services may be used in the course. As with other plagiarism detection tools, AI detection should be treated as a guideline and not a grading metric.

The University offers many support resources regarding academic integrity, for both instructors and students. You can find an overview of academic integrity resources—including considerations for AI tools—in the Promoting Academic Integrity resource, co-created and adapted from the faculty booklet Promoting Academic Integrity & Preventing Academic Dishonesty: Best Practices at Columbia University.

Teaching in the age of artificial intelligence (ChatGPT, etc.)

The advent of artificial intelligence (AI) programs that can generate essays, artwork, computer programming, and datasets has rapidly forced many instructors to reconsider their approach to student learning and to course assignments. The materials below provide a partial introduction to the current landscape of AI in higher education -- especially the ways that students are using AI programs (especially ChatGPT) -- and to some current thinking about the ways that courses might be designed in light of AI as a tool that students may use (with or without permission).

It may be useful to note that instructors can have very different feelings about, and uses for, these AI tools in their teaching. Responses to ChatGPT so far have ranged from bans in some courses on the use of AI of any kind, to policies in other courses on the ways ChatGPT can be used and cited properly, to assignments in other courses that contain components which require the use of AI tools. These varying approaches to AI can be seen not only across the disciplines, but even within single departments or programs, so there is no single piece of guidance that we can offer to all instructors as to ways that AI tools must be handled in their courses.

Ultimately, each instructor will need to determine an individual stance on AI and an individual approach to its use in the course, and each instructor will need to make a clear policy statement to students in a class as to what the rules for that class are with regard to the use of AI.

The Center for Teaching and Learning has provided instructors a brief introduction to AI tools, specifically ChatGPT, along with several strategies that instructors might consider for navigating or engaging with these tools in their courses:

Myriad articles have been written about the ways in which AI tools (especially ChatGPT) are affecting higher education. Here are only a few of those articles, many of which contain examples of the way instructors are adjusting their teaching strategies accordingly:

Instructors may wish to create an OpenAI account in order to test ChaptGPT themselves (for free) in order to understand its capabilities and its limitations (remembering that the program will continue to "learn" and to improve its capabilities over time).

Designing course policies and course assignments/assessments with respect to AI tools

Instructors should articulate clear policies on their syllabi and on their assignments about their expectations for the use of AI tools in student coursework. When crafting these policies, instructors are encouraged to consider the following questions:

  • What is the purpose of the assignments in the class, and why are AI tools appropriate or inappropriate to use for those assignment? How will student learning and development be affected by the use of AI tools? How is this reasoning being explained to students, so that they may understand and respect the attendance policy on the use of AI tools?
  • Will AI tools be used within certain contexts in the course (e.g., as a pedagogical tool, as a brainstorming or research tool, as a component of an assignment, as the source material for exercises in the classroom)?
  • Are students encouraged or discouraged from using AI tools for all work in the class? or for all work except for those identified in answer to the question above?
  • If it seems likely or even desirable that students will use AI/ChatGPT for research, what are the expectations for citing these tools as sources? How should students be transparent about their use of AI tools in the assignment? Is there a certain amount of an assignment that could be produced with AI tools, and if so, what is the limit on that amount?
  • If course policies acknowledge that students may/will be using AI tools, what should students be aware of? Will students understand the capabilities/limitations/biases of the AI tools and know how to analyze the programs' output? Will they be given guidance on the types/series of prompts that are generative and productive (versus minimal prompts that will produce low-quality output)? Do they know that AI tools can generate fictional sources of information?
  • If use of AI tools are not permitted in a student study/work for a course, how is that policy part of the broader academic integrity statement for the course?
  • What questions about AI tools should the students bring to the instructor of the course?

Instructors are encouraged to share ideas within their department/program meetings and undergraduate curriculum committee meetings about ways that AI tools can be acknowledged and even utilized in course design in their fields and disciplines.

Instructors are also encouraged to consult colleagues in Academic Affairs, the Center for the Core Curriculum, and the Center for Teaching and Learning, among others, as they develop their understanding of AI tools, their stance on AI tools with respect to their courses, their approach to AI tools in their teaching, and their explanation of their policies on AI tools to their students.

Detecting and reporting cases of academic dishonesty

Cases involving allegations of academic dishonesty can be difficult for all parties concerned. With the participation of the University's Center for Student Success and Intervention (CSSI), the process of adjudicating such allegations is handled with respect for the interests of everyone involved.

When faced with the probability that a Columbia University undergraduate student has engaged in an act of academic dishonesty, instructors can report the instance of misconduct for handling through the CSSI disciplinary process by using the linked form.

Instructors will be asked to provide a brief written account of their concerns and to include any available evidence. It is possible for an instructor to have good reason to believe that a student has submitted work that is in violation of the standards of academic integrity, even though the source of the work has not been identified yet. If an instructor is convinced that the student has used an unauthorized source, the staff of the University's Center for Student Success and Intervention (CSSI) can provide guidance on possible next steps.

Instructors who report an instance of misconduct should have a conversation with the student about the materials in question and inform the student that the matter has been referred for disciplinary review.

The student will then be contacted by CSSI and instructed to meet with his/her advising dean. A meeting will also be arranged with a hearing officer from CSSI, who will make a determination as to whether the student is responsible for violating policies on academic integrity. The hearing officer will also consider the gravity of the offense and the circumstances of the individual student before determining whether a disciplinary sanction will be issued.

While instructors do not participate in the hearing process, they will be informed of its outcome. If the CSSI finds a student responsible for academic misconduct, faculty should then select an appropriate academic sanction. For example, instructors can choose to lower the grade for the relevant piece of work, lower the final grade for the course, or fail the student for the course. Instructors should inform the student that the sanction is being applied and should why the sanction is appropriate given the nature of the dishonesty.

If you elect not to refer an instance of academic dishonesty to CSSI, please inform the relevant dean of the student’s school (see next section on "contacts for consultations with instructors") if you choose to impose an academic sanction or if you have other concerns about the student. Cases involving academic dishonesty may be indicators of other concerns, and informing the school makes it possible for the student’s advising dean to assist by making any relevant referrals or interventions.

School and University contacts for consultation with instructors

Regarding students enrolled in courses in the Core Curriculum (Art Humanities, Contemporary Civilization, Frontiers of Science, Literature Humanities, or Music Humanities):

  • Larry Jackson, associate dean of Academic Affairs, Columbia College, and director of the Center for the Core Curriculum

Regarding Columbia College students:

Regarding General Studies students:

Regarding Engineering undergraduate students:

  • Jenny Mak, senior associate dean of Undergraduate and Graduate Student Affairs, School of Engineering and Applied Science

Regarding Barnard College students:

  • Holly Tedder, dean of Academic Planning and Student Advising, Barnard College

Columbia University Center for Student Success and Intervention
800 Watson Hall, 612 West 115th Street, 8th Floor · New York, NY 10025