Academic Honor Council stratifies levels of honor code sanctions

After being passed by the general faculty and Student Government Association, then later approved by the faculty senate last fall, the Academic Honor Council (AHC) will implement a different system of determining levels of honor code violation beginning this spring semester, marking the first changes since the code was adopted in 2004.

According to C. Mackenzie Brown, professor of religion and one of the two academic advisors to the AHC, responses to campus-wide surveys were partially responsible for the change of sanctions and added flexibility.

“There was a prevailing attitude – not universal, and on these things I have found that universality and total consensus is not going to happen – that the code was too strict,” Brown said.  “This led to, on the one hand students feeling thoroughly browbeaten by the honor council and faculty sometimes not reporting because they were concerned the punishment would be far too harsh.”

There are now four classes of violations of the honor code with corresponding repercussions, rather than the previous generalized sanction resulting in the deduction of two letter grades for the class and an F on the assignment in question.

According to Nupur Agrawal, senior psychology and religion major and external chair of the AHC, the four classes, all of which result in a finding of responsible to committing an AHC violation, are as follows:

Class 1: Negligent and careless scholarship. There is no clear evidence of the intent to cheat and the majority of assignment is done appropriately.

Class 2 – Minor Violation. The offending material is minimal on the part of the assignment and would not substantially impact the assignment if taken out.

Class 3 – Substantial Violation. While the offending material was substantial and critical to the assignment, the student has also contributed significant original material in the assignment.

Class 4 – Major Violation. Same as above and the student has not or has hardly contributed any original material in the assignment.

“It provides for a more effective system and a more effective judgment. Our judgment in the amount of academic theft is now more parallel, so to say, it’s more in tangent with each other than it was before,” Agrawal said. “Your consequences to what you’ve done are more comparable, where initially in some cases they might not have been, but now that’s not the case. It allows for more people to come forward and it allows for a more justified system.”

Within this amended system of sanctions, the professor brings a violation and can suggest the level of responsibility which they believe to be applicable to the situation. However, the AHC is not subject to adhere to this recommendation.

According to Brown, dividing violations into classes also enables the AHC to reduce the impact of mitigating ““ namely extenuating ““ circumstances, which were previously weighted in order to possibly change a student’s finding of responsibility, and as he asserts, often embellished. These extenuating circumstances will no longer be able to stand alone as evidence in determining responsibility by the AHC.

In addition to this, the AHC is now utilizing letters of reprimand in order to warn students of behavior that could possibly violate the honor code.

“The letter of reprimand is written by the honor council to kind of let the student know. It’s a warning letter to the student,” Agrawal said. “It’s a finding of not responsible, but it makes the student aware.”

According to Brown, along with added flexibility the new sanction system has increased AHC efficiency when processing cases.

“On all accounts [the new sanction system] makes cases easier to manage, including serving justice,” Brown said. “I think this is nicely illustrated in the three or four recent cases. They have all been done in basically record time, and these aren’t rushed through.”

According to Julie Stayton, senior philosophy major and internal AHC chair, the changes to the honor code will better serve the student body and those who are brought to the AHC for honor code violations.

“I think with our new system we are trying to implement this idea that we are holding you accountable for your actions as opposed to we are punishing you because you did something wrong,” Stayton said. “Now I feel like we have really opened it up and given ourselves an opportunity to grow and meet the needs of the student body a little bit more than we have before.”

Betsy Tontiplaphol, associate professor of English and a current alternate faculty advisor, will be replacing Brown as the second faculty advisor next year, working with current AHC faculty advisor Curtis Brown, professor of philosophy.