The current Intellectual Integrity Policy was approved by Faculty Assembly on April 5, 2004 and approved by President Deborah B. Stanley on April 18, 2004. It appears in the 2004-05 academic catalog. Earlier versions can be found as far back as the 1985-86 catalog, having been approved by Faculty Assembly on December 10, 1984 and approved by President Virginia Radley on January 7, 1985.
The current policy includes a description of how a faculty member is to proceed if there is a suspicion of academic misconduct. There are two stages to this procedure: the first details the steps to be taken in determining if misconduct did in fact occur and what penalty should be assigned; the second details the notification and appeals processes. Taken together, these two stages constitute "due process," or how to deal fairly with a student.
We are legally obligated to follow the procedures that we have established if we impose sanctions. InWeideman v. SUNY College at Cortland, 592 N.Y.S.2d 99 (N.Y. App. Div. 1992), a student who was dismissed (expelled) for cheating on an exam was reinstated and a new hearing ordered. This result came about because minimal due process was not provided. How much due process is required? That, apparently, is still a matter of debate. For a good description, see The Law of Higher Education, 3rd edition, by William A. Kaplin and Barbara A. Lee, Jossey-Bass, 1995, San Francisco, CA (and Year 2000 Cumulative Supplement), section 4.8, pages 483-500). The Kaplin and Lee text is considered the "bible" of higher education law.
In any event, we outline what due process must be provided in our procedures.
Do you have to follow these procedures? Yes! In at least one instance at this school, when the procedures were not followed, lawyers got involved and ultimately we needed to go back and re-handle the entire case following our campus procedures. The end result was the same, but significant time and aggravation for all could have been saved had the campus procedure been followed in the first place.
Our campus judicial system of disciplinary hearings is based upon the the findings in Esteban v. Central Missouri State College, 277 F. Supp. 649 (W.D. Mo. 1967) (see Kaplan and Lee, page 486, for details). While this detailed level of process is not required for academic misconduct, it does provide a benchmark: the student should understand what the issue is and be given a chance to respond before any decision as to the misconduct is made. Our process includes just these features:
"Students suspected of intellectual dishonesty shall be so informed and are entitled to an opportunity to reveal their understanding of cheating/plagiarism in a private discussion with the course instructor prior to the assessment of any penalty."
These discussions will shed light on the actions of the student and clarify the understanding of the incident by the instructor. In many instances instructors have found these discussions to fundamentally change their perception of the student's actions and only then can an instructor decide upon an appropriate penalty.
Note also that our policy also provides for witnesses to this discussion:
"The instructor or the student may choose to have a witness present for the discussion without impairing the privacy of the discussion."
The purpose of providing the option for witnesses is to avoid an appeal based on conflicting descriptions of what took place. Faculty are encouraged to take notes and to immediately put in writing the substance of the discussion. It is recommended that these notes be shared with the student. Witnesses are just that, witnesses, and should not become involved in the discussion that takes place.
After this meeting, the faculty member should take all that they have learned into account before deciding whether academic misconduct has or has not taken place. If it is determined that misconduct did in fact take place, then the faculty member has an obligation to decide upon a penalty, after consultation:
"Before taking any action, instructors shall consult with their department chairs and appropriate dean to discuss an appropriate penalty before informing the student of the decision in writing."
The Committee on Intellectual Integrity, as charged by Provost Coultrap-McQuin, has created a document,Sanctions Guidelines, that should assist instructors in choosing an appropriate penalty.
Finally, the instructor's obligation is to notify the student of their decision:
"The instructor shall notify the student of the decision to impose an academic penalty and the basis for that decision. The instructor shall carbon-copy that notification to their dean along with the following information: the class and semester, a copy of the assignment, due date of the assignment, the work submitted by the student and evidence to support the charge of intellectual dishonesty."
The process may seem a bit onerous, but actually it is very simple - tell the student there is a problem, give them an opportunity to explain, evaluate all you've learned, make a decision and notify the student of your decision and the reasons for that decision, with a carbon-copy sent to the dean.
It may seem simpler to handle it on your own, or to make a decision without allowing the student to explain. But our faculty governance process has put in place a procedure to follow and individual faculty should follow it. If it not followed and the student complains, the instructor will have to go back to square one and follow the process. Faculty should adhere to the process not because of a legal obligation but because it is a simple matter of fairness.
After an initial decision has been made by an instructor, a notification process and appeal process become active.
The notification to the dean of the determination of misconduct and penalty assigned triggers additional notifications.
- The Provost is notified, as a matter of information.
- The student's advisor(s) are notified in general terms that misconduct has occurred. This provides an opportunity for a discussion between the student and advisor of intellectual integrity and its importance.
- Finally, the deans inform the student that they have received a notification of academic misconduct, providing them with information regarding the integrity policy and, importantly, their appeal options. This latter notification, while not part of the campus policy, has recently been added to further ensure that students are aware of their due process rights and the seriousness of the misconduct, including the possibly severe consequences of future academic misconduct. In particular,
"...when a student is involved in repeated breaches of academic integrity, disciplinary action may be initiated against that student by the appropriate dean."
The student can appeal
- first, to the instructor involved;
- then, to the chair of the department in which the course is offered;
- and finally, using the Student Conduct Office, the student may appeal to the appropriate academic Dean. The Student Conduct office will work with the student to prepare the final appeal and will submit the appeal on behalf of the student.
The first two steps have been present since the initial policy on cheating/plagiarism was established in 1984. The inclusion in the third step of the Judicial Affairs Office was an addition made in the 2004 revision. This sets up the Judicial Affairs Office as an ombudsman in the process, ensuring that the student receives as complete and fair a hearing of their appeal as possible. It brings someone outside of the supervisory chain (instructor-chair-dean) into the process so that students understand that their appeal will be carefully considered. Finally, it provides for a written appeal, enabling the student to write a thorough and considered appeal.
THE JUDICIAL OPTION
Oswego's policy actually contains two tracks that can be followed. The above refers to the academic penalty option. Alternatively, a faculty member may choose to file judicial charges, typically a violation of the Code of Student Rights, Responsibilities and Conduct in the Student Handbook. This is a procedure that falls within Student Affairs, not Academic Affairs, and is described in a separate document.