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Abdelrahman Kotb

Abdelrahman Kotb | Students of Higher Ed

My name is Abdelrahman Kotb and I'm a PhD student studying petroleum engineering at Texas A&M University. I am an ambitious student, and I'm also a father of two kids.

I finished my bachelor's, master's and PhD in petroleum engineering all at A&M. I've been at A&M for 10 years, but I’m graduating this August, so it'll be the end of a journey. I started my studies at American University in Cairo back in 2008, and then I transferred to A&M and this is where I continued my education.

I actually never heard about the Honor Council when I was in my undergrad and masters studies. And then, during the first year of my PhD, we had this seminar about academic integrity with my advisor who required us all to attend. He was talking about the number of students on the council, the number of cases they were having, and that they needed more people. And I thought to myself, “Okay, maybe I can make a difference.” By the end I was like, “I want to be part of this. How can I join?” I’ve been a member ever since.

I think it's been a very interesting and unique ride with the Honor Council. I have to say it's more bitter than sweet most of the time. This was my first exposure to it. In education in Egypt, there is not really mention of plagiarism when you’re in high school—referencing, sourcing, how to write in English. English is a second language for us. When it comes to Arabic literature, there is emphasis on writing your own words, but no one really considers copying because it's completely different. It's not the same as writing in English.

Whenever I joined, I didn't really know what it meant to plagiarize, to cite all these things, and I felt that the process was too harsh given the knowledge and the experience that I've had as a student. This is why I've been an advocate to educate the students.

If the student doesn't know, you cannot treat them like the student that does know.
Abdelrahman Kotb
Student, Texas A&M University
Texas A&M University

Each student needs to be treated uniquely. Their experience and their background really matter. This is why I always like to listen to the student, where they've come from, what they know. What is their exposure to academic integrity and academic misconduct?

So for me, this was something that was very close and dear to my heart. I felt that without the proper education, it's unfair to just expect the students who come from all these backgrounds to know about academic misconduct or plagiarism or collaboration. And then to make a judgment based on that is a recipe for disaster, in my opinion.

I’ve always been interested in the education that a student receives from the first day they go to college until the unfortunate incident that they end up sometimes having, which is academic misconduct. Irrespective of wherever you're coming from, I am hoping that by the end of the first semester, or the end of even the first month, there is this knowledge that you receive that basically answers the question, what is academic integrity? What are the resources that you have? If you’re stuck, what can you do if you’re running out of time?

I understand that college is really stressful. I understand that there is a lot of pressure that a lot of people have either from family, from scholarships, or from a personal desire to achieve the best grades. But at the same time, there’s the fact that there is help, but people just don't ask for help. I feel that if we just give the education needed for that, I feel cases would be less. It’ s something that I feel very strongly about. I feel it’s something that's important for students.

Academic integrity, for me, means that whenever you're doing any work, you have this notion that someone can scrutinize every single aspect of your thought process and find nothing wrong. Nothing that violates any academic rule whether it's plagiarism, cheating, working with someone you're not supposed to, using a source that you're not supposed to. So, it's this ability to scrutinize everything you've done and finding nothing wrong. This is the definition of academic integrity to me.

The biggest thing that I want—and I actually don't even know if it's achievable—is to enlist this sense of importance in students. So many times I hear students say, “Oh, this was only 2% of my total grade,” or, “This was only a paragraph,” or, “This was only a sentence,” or, “This is only one question.” It’s this sense of, “Oh, it doesn't really matter because I only cheated on a small part of the assignment or a small part of the exam.” Or, “I really didn't mean to copy the sentence from the paper. I just opened the paper and then I copied it and it just happened.”

There’s this sense of not really realizing how big or how crucial integrity is, I want to enlist this sense of how major integrity is not only for students, but whenever they graduate.
Abdelrahman Kotb
Student, Texas A&M University
Texas A&M University

This has severe consequences in real work once you graduate. I want people to realize how detrimental some of these mistakes can be once they graduate.

I want to make sure that students get the education necessary. So, I want to be a voice for students to help them be heard. I wanted them to know that some of the student body cares for their learning. Every student that I see through the Honor Council, first, I hope that they're not responsible. And second, even if they are responsible, I hope that this is the first time they’ve done it. I hope they have a good reason why they've done it so that we can find a way to give them the education that they need without laying down harsh sanctions. And I want to enlist in these students that idea that integrity is crucial. It is important. It is very integral to what a graduate from A&M or any university should have.

Abdelrahman Kotb
Petroleum Engineering PhD Student
Texas A&M University