Student senator proposes inclusive integrity statement

In the wake of several scandals at the University over the past year, a student initiative is trying to combat the depreciation of ethics and integrity on campus.

“Scandals are a distraction,” said Illinois Student Senator Keenan Kassar, senior in Business. “Our true goal is to have superior academics. We cannot veer off of that or it will affect our academics and our budget.”

Kassar founded the registered student organization Students for a Better Illinois, through which he launched a proposal for the creation of a comprehensive integrity statement, inclusive of all students, faculty, administrators and staff.

Kassar wrote a resolution for the Illinois Student Senate to propose the idea to campus administration, which passed at the senate’s meeting Wednesday. He believes having the University create such a statement would establish firm priorities with regards to integrity and set a standard for a “U of I way.”

Shravan Gupta, sophomore in Engineering, helped Kassar start Students for a Better Illinois in fall 2011. Gupta said currently, students must adhere to academic integrity through the student code, but there is no statement for faculty, administration and staff.

“As students we care about our integrity statements, but there is nothing all-inclusive,” he said. “Nothing applies to all levels of governance and includes (everyone) from students up to the president, holding them accountable for everything they do.”

Carey Hawkins-Ash, student senator and graduate student, is a sponsor of the proposal and helped to revise the document. He said he hopes to see a statement representing the best of the University.

“Our campus should have an integrity statement because it sets forth our University position and the reputation of the institution,” he said. “The way I see it is the statement is a declaration to the world of the highest values of the Illinois.”

Brock Gebhardt, student body president, said a few other Big Ten universities already have similar statements in place, including Purdue and Ohio State universities.

“We’re bettering campus by making sure our university is one that strongly observes integrity and demonstrates a commitment on a regular basis,” he said. “We want to be in line with our peers and demonstrate our commitment to being the university that exemplifies integrity.”

With the support of the student senate, Kassar plans to present his proposal to the Urbana-Champaign Senate in the coming months, urging Chancellor Phyllis Wise to appoint a committee to write the statement.

Corinne can be reached at cruff2@dailyillini.com.