Recommendations

The data overall indicate a relatively healthy honor system, but one that needs attention. Cheating rates are lower than our benchmark schools, which is obviously good, but the trends are not ideal. In particular, cheating on homework is higher than other institutions. This may represent a leading indicator of other behaviors in the future. Fundamentally, the system we have in place is working better than many of our competitors’ and better than other alternatives.

Attitudes reported by faculty and students also indicate that the health of the system requires attention. For example, students do not see academic integrity violations as being as serious as faculty do, and their absolute ratings are close to the midpoint of the scale. This pattern can be interpreted as an underlying cause of some of the cheating behavior reported now and a leading indicator for the future. Addressing student attitudes through education is critical to improving the honor climate at UMW.

Faculty attitudes are also of concern. 16% did not indicate that when faced with an academic integrity violation that they would report it to the Honor Council. This indicates either that faculty do not understand or do not trust the system. Both education and engagement with the faculty will be required to change these attitudes. We recommend working with students and faculty together to create a common understanding and sense of purpose surrounding academic integrity.

Further, Administrative faculty and staff are a valuable resource in supporting the Honor System. Student Affairs, Student Services, and other UMW team members develop strong relationships with students in a wide range of contexts. Involving them in the future of the system will lead to a closer community of trust.

It is therefore the basic recommendation of the task force that UMW recommit ourselves to a student-run Honor System, dedicating increased effort and resources to returning it to excellence. By emphasizing trust, community, and the positive aspects of living in an honor community, UMW will continue this distinctive and meaningful tradition.

The task force further recommends that improvements be made in four major areas: Education, Improvement of Process, Sanctioning, and Community Building.

Education, to include communication with prospective students, prematriculators, first year students, advanced students, faculty, staff, and the Honor Council itself. The goals of these recommendations are to increase buy-in by faculty and students by emphasizing positive and growth aspects of academic integrity; to facilitate participation in the system by making roles clearer to all concerned; and to make the functioning of the system as fair and smooth as possible by having a well-trained Honor Council.

  1. The Honor Council should, in collaboration with Admissions, develop materials for prospective students highlighting the honor culture at UMW. Existing materials should also emphasize honor and community throughout. This would help ensure student buy-in from the outset and signal to both students and alumni that UMW continues to value honor in all phases of our institutional work. It reflects a major theme of student open-ended survey responses.
  2. The Honor Council should develop multimedia material for pre-matriculation students to introduce them to the core values of academic and integrity. These should also include core values of the liberal arts and sciences. This project should be collaborative with Judicial Affairs and the Provost’s Office.
  3. Honor training during orientation should be revamped to include small group discussions and meaningful conversations about integrity. These groups should become ongoing venues for discussing important issues.
  4. Honor Convocation should be rewritten to emphasize emotional and interpersonal factors, rather than rules and policies. To this end, the honor pledge should be rewritten along the same lines.
  5. Convocation should move out of the Anderson Center and to a more dignified setting. Jefferson Square or the Amphitheater would be more meaningful and connected to campus life.
  6. The Honor Council should be formally charged with particular educational programs throughout the year, including Honor Celebration. These programs should be collaborative with both Student Affairs and academic departments.
  7. Honor Council member training should be codified and revamped. Members should be taught deliberation skills and trained on appropriate sanctions for each offense. Benchmarking against training at other institutions (e.g. W&M, CNU) is essential.
  8. New faculty should receive a mandatory 1 hour training session on the Honor System. Materials, including a flowchart should be kept up to date.
  9. Departmental Faculty Honor Advisors should take an active role in ongoing faculty development regarding academic integrity and the Honor System. All faculty should have access to regular training and updates. Special attention should be paid to “faculty skeptics,” who report disillusionment with the system.

 

Process, to include simplifying the integrity process for all parties, reducing the time from accusation to resolution, and most important, making reporting as safe and easy a process as possible. Faculty and student data are clear that the system suffers because students are currently not willing to support the system by reporting possible honor violations. Fully 16% of faculty are not using the system, either, which undermines it in a dangerous way. The following recommendations are intended to make reporting easier and to make outcomes quicker, fairer, and more consistent. These are intended to address reported concerns about procedure as it stands.

  1. A major overhaul of the Honor Constitution is required for the purpose of making it more flexible and much shorter. Procedural items should be moved to a separate document. This sentiment is not shared by the students of the Honor Council, although they are generally in favor of simplification.
  2. One larger Honor Council should administer all UMW students, with provision made for graduate students accused of violations to have a majority graduate student panel hear their cases.
  3. The process of submitting a case should be easy and online.
  4. Investigation should not be expected of accusers. Either the Honor Council or a separate investigative body should execute this process.
  5. Accused students should be required to attend hearings.
  6. Cases in which students take responsibility for their behavior should be expedited. Current Council members recommend giving faculty more input for first offenses for faculty who choose this option. Faculty support the notion, but wish for the Council to retain authority for all cases and for the process to retain its current gravitas.
  7. A process for reporting interim grades should be created, so that faculty may delay grading a disputed assignment until the Honor Council has determined responsibility.
  8. An Academic Integrity Committee should be formed, constituted of faculty, students, and staff. Their charge will focus on supporting the Honor Council’s efforts on education, assessment, and policymaking.

 

Sanctioning, so that sanctions are tough, consistent, and educational. In particular, faculty are concerned that sanctions are not tough enough. To the extent that this leads to a circumvention of the system, it must be fixed. However, students believe sanctions are severe enough, and therefore it is essential that those sanctions be perceived as both fair and educational. These reforms are intended to meet all of these needs.

  1. Community discussions around sanctioning should be held, in order to help create consensus about appropriate responses to violations of the Honor Code.
  2. A survey of community expectations of sanctions should be commissioned, and a sanctioning guide created on that basis.
  3. Faculty should be included in the sanctioning process for first offenses in which the student takes responsibility, making use of the sanctioning guide, and with the final approval of the Honor Council.
  4. A sanction of grade reduction in a course should be explored, provided that can be implemented without degradation of faculty grading prerogatives. A grade recommendation from the Honor Council is one example of this.
  5. A wider array of educational and other sanctions should be considered.
  6. Post-sanction reflection should become a regular part of the process.
  7. A review of the transcript notation policy should be conducted in order to comply with changes in state law and to ensure that our values are served by the policy.

Community Building

  1. Faculty should be encouraged to trust students, including not proctoring exams, requiring documentation for excuses, etc.
  2. Students should be encouraged to report violations of the Honor Code and to talk about these situations with their peers.
  3. Communicate that “Honor is a way of life,” not simply the absence of classroom cheating. Emphasis should be placed on rewards for leading an honorable life.
  4. Honor conversations and education should closely involve Administrative faculty and staff members, particularly in areas of Student Affairs and Student Services.
  5. The community should be publicly engaged in the Honor System through regular reports on cases, sanctions, and various campus news outlets. Honor Code violators’ voices should be heard, as many become eloquent supporters of the Honor System
  6. A major effort should be undertaken to demystify and destigmatize reporting violations. Students should all know how to report and to understand the importance of this aspect of an honor system.
  7. In alignment with behavioral science research on behavior change, an effort should be made by faculty to require students to pledge all written work.

Assessment

  1. This process should be repeated in 5-10 years to evaluate the effectiveness of changes made.
  2. Regular surveys of incoming and graduating students should be conducted to assess the effectiveness of individual programs in changing attitudes.
  3. Assessment of the actual Honor process should be conducted regularly to determine satisfaction and solicit recommendations from accusers, witnesses, and accused students.
  4. Tracking of case data should be implemented.

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