New Brunswick Faculty Council
Response to the Proposed Policy on Academic Integrity
As Amended and Adopted March 31, 2006
 
Academic Regulations and Standards Committee
 
 
Introduction
  
The New Brunswick Faculty Council, on March 31, 2006, passed the resolutions below relating to the proposed university academic integrity policy. It is our understanding that this proposed policy has now been sent back to the University committee for possible revision, and that it may eventually be resubmitted to the University Senate for consideration. Even so, here we offer resolutions supporting a few selected elements of the policy and suggest a few revisions in the expectation that these will be helpful to the committee and the Senate as they consider possible revisions. These resolutions address only a few aspects of the present proposal on academic integrity but do not address other aspects of the University Code of Student Conduct and judicial system as they may involve faculty.

The proposed policy would replace the existing Policy on Academic Integrity summarized on pp. 561-2 of the current catalog.  The present policy defines four levels of violation and appropriate penalties, including suspension at the third level and expulsion at the fourth level.  The new policy defines only “non-separable” and “separable” offenses, without being clear whether “separation” includes suspension or only permanent expulsion. In general, “separable” offenses, including repeated a group of offenses that would be non-separable if taken individually, would be handled under the Code of Student Conduct as judicial offenses.  The new policy focuses mainly on “non-separable” academic offenses, which would be recorded and acted upon, but without establishing a judicial record.
On the whole this policy is a good step forward but could be improved at several points as discussed below. The new policy would give the faculty greater leeway in charging and resolving suspected cases of academic dishonesty, while providing the student a right of appeal, and would establish a record with the OCSPJA in case of subsequent allegations in other courses.  It describes different types of academic dishonesty, and presents a list of non-separable and separable offenses.  It is stated (p. 4, 2nd par.) that graduate and professional school students may be held to a higher standard than undergraduates and subject to separation for offenses that otherwise would be considered non-separable.  But they would still be protected by the same judicial procedure as undergraduates. 
 
Resolutions
 
1)      The Faculty Council agrees with the position that academic offenses have varying degrees of severity that may be adequately categorized in two tiers, separable or non-separable.  Before proceeding to implement any new Integrity Policy based on these distinctions, however, we recommend that the specific categorization of offenses be revised with additional consideration given to the potential severity of each offense and with specific attention paid to differences in expectations for undergraduate and for graduate students. 
 
Commentary
 
In our view, several offenses listed as non-separable may rise to the level of separable under some circumstances.  The current document appears to preempt the more serious response that some of these offenses may warrant.  Multiple violations occurring more or less contemporaneously should be clearly distinguished from sequential violations after a student has been sanctioned for a previous offense. 
 
2)      No list of offenses can be exhaustive and the authors of the proposed Integrity Policy make no such claim for the one given in their document.  Still, some important offenses appear not to be adequately discussed and we therefore recommend further consideration and extension of the list of offenses, especially to ensure coverage of offenses specific to the various disciplines. 
 
Commentary
 
For example, in the discussion of denying others access to information or material, there should be specific reference to such things as deliberately misplacing,
contaminating, harming, or destroying experimental materials, resource materials computer programs or data of another student, or equipment, software, or supplies of a class or class laboratory. 
 
3)      The Faculty Council supports greater autonomy for instructors in deciding on the penalties for lesser (non-separable) academic offenses.  Those penalties may include failing the student in the course.


Commentary

At present faculty members are directed to contact a dean for all levels of suspected academic dishonesty.  They often prefer to handle lesser offenses themselves, avoiding entanglement in a prolonged disciplinary process.  The new policy places a greater but acceptable burden on the faculty member to confront the student who is suspected of academic dishonesty, allowing the student to respond.  The faculty member can then assign academic punishment, up to a failing grade in the course, for non-separable offenses. 

The student has the right to appeal to the Academic Integrity Committee (AIC), which includes a faculty member, a student and a “trained Academic Investigator”.  The AIC usually passes only on the sanction imposed by the faculty member. It “may recommend the change of a determination that the student violated the Policy only when it finds that the faculty member’s judgment was clearly erroneous” or new evidence appears.  The proposed policy gives faculty more room to act on, for instance, statistical evidence that deans have not always accepted in the past.
 
4)      The Faculty Council supports the idea that faculty should report actions taken in response to non-separable offenses to a central registry. 
 
Commentary

If the faculty member and student resolve a matter directly (i.e., the student admits that he/she violated the Policy and accepts the sanction), the faculty member informs the Office of Compliance, Student Policy and Judicial Affairs (OCSPJA), which maintains a record of offenses.  If the student has prior offenses the OCSPJA may refer the matter to the AIC or to Judicial Affairs for adjudication under the Code of Student Conduct.  Non-separable offenses are considered to be academic matters, not student discipline that warrants creating a disciplinary record.  The Policy is to be reviewed regularly by the AIC.
 
5)      The Faculty Council urges that the following procedural matters be reconsidered.

A faculty member may want the option of forwarding to AIC for determination of responsibility an alleged violation where responsibility is not easily established, a “he said, she said” situation, such as identical reports submitted by two or more students – who copied from whom, and did the copyee know that his/her report was being copied? In such cases an experienced Administrative Investigator might better determine who did what (and the faculty member would be spared spending extensive time on the investigation.  Also, an AI may more easily demand the student’s cooperation in the investigation.)

Procedures must be developed that reconcile the need for thoroughness in any OCSJPA review and the time-sensitive need to record grades for students. 
We believe that it would be desirable to have a single campus-wide AIC and OCSPJA, common standards of investigation, proof, and sanction for undergraduates.

6)         The Faculty Council urges that any new policy on academic integrity take specific account of differences between undergraduate and graduate students with respect to a) the likely spectrum of offenses, b) the seriousness with which those offenses are regarded, and c) the appropriate administrative structures for responding to them.

Commentary

While the general principles concerning academic integrity apply equally to all of us in the academy, experience shows that significant differences exist between the likely spectrum of offenses that undergraduate students and graduate students, respectively, may commit.  For example, problems arising in connection with intellectual property and research conduct are serious at any level, but much more problematic among graduate students.  Also, it would seem appropriate that members of the faculty and administrators of the graduate school or of the graduate professional schools, rather than of the undergraduate units consider and act upon offenses that graduate students commit.
 
7)         The Faculty Council requests that two representatives of the New Brunswick Faculty Council be made members of the committee that will deliberate on the final academic integrity policy.
 
Disclaimer:  It should be noted that neither the New Brunswick Faculty Council nor its committees have considered every possible element of the proposed policy which may require revision, but has, in the above, made a good-faith effort to present suggestions for revision, amendment or further discussion.  The above resolutions and comments address only the present proposal on academic integrity. They do not address other aspects of the University Code of Student Conduct and judicial system as they may involve faculty.