Saturday, August 17, 2019

Faculty Committee Proposes Improvements to Honor Code



Last year, the Faculty Conference selected a special faculty committee to evaluate the College’s student honor code and disciplinary system. This committee examined the Integrity Contract and the disciplinary processes for academic dishonesty and social misconduct.  The system in use today was created more than a decade ago and, as such, the committee was charged with proposing any improvements that might be needed to update the system.

During the 2013-14 academic year, the committee met weekly to examine the current system, “interviewing a wide range of administrators, faculty, and students” according to an e-mail sent out by the committee.  For example, they conducted an online survey of Faculty and graduating seniors, and they examined the disciplinary procedures of Trinity’s peer institutions.

Over the summer, the committee came up with a series of proposals in the form of motions for the Faculty to look over and vote on at its meeting on Nov. 11.  These changes that the committee proposed were also included in an e-mail sent out to the Trinity community at large. Already, the committee has stated that they have begun to revise these proposals in response to suggestions from some Faculty members. They have also expressed encouragement for the community to add any critiques so that they might further improve these proposals.

Many of the issues that these proposals address are those that are concerned with the Academic Dishonesty Procedures. The committee’s motion is to establish a procedure “under which all penalties for academic dishonesty are imposed through either a First Offender Resolution Process or an Academic Dishonesty Hearing…”. Accordingly, the First Offender Resolution Process would be an option in the case of a student who has been charged with an academic dishonesty violation but who has no previous academic dishonesty violation on file, as well as for a student who admits guilt to the charge. Furthermore, in this situation, the maximum sanction that may be imposed by the instructor is failure in the course. However, if a student has been charged with academic dishonesty but also has a previous violation file, the Dean of Students Office is required to attend a formal academic hearing. In the same manner, if a student charged as a first offender but does not accept guilt, they must also attend an academic dishonesty hearing. If a student attends such a hearing, an additional sanction may be imposed in combination with that already imposed by the instructor. Some of these sanctions include: academic censure for the remainder of the students’ undergraduate career; academic probation for one or two semesters; suspension from the College for one or two semesters; or expulsion.

The committee also added that to ensure that all infractions are punished similarly, a Jury Panel instead of the Academic Affairs Committee will establish a set of recommended punishments. In addition, the accused student may be accompanied by an advisor from the Trinity Community if he/she gives notice to the Chair of the Hearing Panel in writing at least 72 hours prior to the hearing. Overall, the motion lists the major changes to the former system as: there will now be mandatory reporting of all cases were sanctions are imposed, that there is the creation of an alternative to the hearing process for first offenders, and finally, that there is now an integration of consequences imposed by faculty into the consideration of sanctions through the hearing process.

Other suggested improvements to the honor system from the committee involve the communication and sharing of the college’s policies and procedures with the community. Although they have already announced these proposals to the community at large, they hope to take steps to make students and faculty fully aware of the responsibilities that they agree to uphold in regard to academic and social integrity. Primarily, they hope to spread awareness of these policies through an updated and accessible website. In addition, the committee believes that there needs to be “a concerted effort” to communicate this information to incoming students and faculty alike. As a result, the committee also suggests that students sign a pledge of academic integrity not only at matriculation, but also at the first meeting of every course, and upon submission of written work as appropriate. This, the committee believes, will reinforce and remind students of what they are agreeing to uphold. Finally, they suggest that all academic advisors be informed when a student is charged with academic dishonesty.

As Trinity attempts to improve its academic reputation, it is important that it also reinforces the academic integrity of its students. As a result, the committee in search of a better honor system encourages all who are interested in participating in such progress to share their recommendations. Those who are interested in participating may find more information on the proposals on the college website, and contact Christine McMorris by e-mail with their suggestions.

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