Faculty Council endorses proposed reforms to Honor System
Both student and faculty leaders have endorsed a proposed suite of reforms for Carolina’s student-led Honor System.
The proposal, developed after a three-year review of the system by faculty, students and administrators, aims to strengthen academic integrity and affirm a campus-wide culture of honor. Proposed changes, endorsed by both Student Congress and the Committee on Student Conduct (COSC), address the principle that everyone has a stake in preserving honor and integrity at Carolina.
The proposal reflects input from the COSC as well as the council’s Educational Policy Committee (EPC) and the “Boxill Commission,” a task force led by Faculty Chair Jan Boxill to examine the Honor System and suggest changes or improvements. Chancellor Holden Thorp asked Boxill to form the task force in 2011.
As part of the proposal, one faculty member would be included on each five-member Honor Court panel in academic cases in which the student pled not guilty. The faculty representative would be chosen at random from a Faculty Honor Court Panel consisting of at least 50 faculty members from a cross-section of departments and disciplines.
The change would not only enhance faculty oversight in the process, it would show a joint commitment to academic integrity, law professor Richard Myers said during the April 26 Faculty Council meeting. Myers spoke on behalf of the COSC.
Other proposed changes include:
- Reducing the burden of proof from “beyond a reasonable doubt” to “clear and convincing evidence,” where the evidence is substantially more likely to be true than not true and the hearing panel has firm conviction;
- Changing the usual sanction for a first-time academic dishonesty offense to, at minimum, a failing grade and a written letter warning that further academic misconduct would call for more serious sanctions (at minimum, suspension for at least one academic semester); and
- Creating a student-instructor resolution process for students who plead guilty to minor instances of academic dishonesty.
The proposal includes sanctioning guidelines for each category of offense: minimal; reckless and/or minor; and deliberate and substantial.
“These reforms are intricately connected,” said sociology professor Andy Perrin, who spoke for the COSC. Training is integral to the process. “We wouldn’t want to reduce the burden of proof without appropriate training and faculty participation,” he said.
In conjunction with the reform suite, the EPC introduced a resolution asking the University to establish, beginning in December 2014, an “XF” grade as a penalty for infractions in the “reckless and/or minor” and “deliberate and substantial” categories.
The XF grade would become an F after a full semester had passed as long as the student completed a non-credit academic integrity seminar. The University of Maryland offers such a seminar, which could be a model for Carolina to follow, said committee member and health policy and management professor Andrea Biddle.
The Faculty Council endorsed both the Honor System reform suite and the establishment of an XF grade.
Faculty Athletics Committee
As part of her regular report to the council, Faculty Athletics Committee Chair Joy Renner said the committee had reviewed the majors of student-athletes from fall 2010 through spring 2013 as well as course enrollment data for spring 2013. The preliminary analysis showed no student-athlete clustering issues, she said.
The committee is reviewing team competition schedules and compiling data about classes missed. It will further analyze academic trends, she said.
“This year, we have worked on understanding the current environment, and in May we will figure out where the gaps are,” Renner said. “Next year, the committee will work to get a handle on data collection.”
Thorp said that classes enrolling more than 20 percent student-athletes were now reviewed by the Provost’s Office if there were questions about the syllabus or the department chair could not offer a valid reason for the course composition.
In response to several questions from council members, Renner said, “The key is that there are now more eyes looking at everything and more brains thinking about these things.”
Just before the end of the meeting, history professor Wayne Lee presented a proposal that regular-season football games, either home or away, should not be scheduled on a day of regular class instruction.
Speaking on behalf of the Athletics Reform Group, Lee admitted that this had never been a problem at Carolina, but it had become an issue at other universities that wanted to raise the profile of their football programs. He called the resolution a first step in properly addressing the role of athletics at Carolina. Following a spirited discussion, the resolution was defeated 30–26 in a standing vote of general faculty.
For additional information about the proposals and resolutions, including resolutions of appreciation for the service of Thorp and Bruce Carney, executive vice chancellor and provost, see go.unc.edu/t9CNw.
Thorp received a standing ovation after his resolution was read and adopted.