Monday, November 12, 2012

Rulemaking From the Bottom Up--The Student Conduct Code Moves Forward Led By Our Students--And that is a Good Thing

At the Penn State University Faculty Senate second meeting of this academic year (e.g. Faculty Senate October 16 Meeting Agenda) I spoke to the work of the Senate in helping consolidate and make more relevant the Student Conduct Code at the University. See Statement of Senate Chair Made at the October 16, 2012 Penn State University Faculty Senate Meeting.

(Pix (c) Larry Catá Backer 2012)

Not all members of the administration or of the Senate have welcomed this move.  I am pleased to see, though, that students have been taking the initiative--something that has been long overdue.  As Senate chair I welcome this initiative; if shared governance means anything it should mean that the objects of regulation should have a substantial voice in organizing the rules  which will bind them.  It is time for faculty and administration to show less arrogance and more humility in the face of students who smarter, better directed and more willing to engage in the process of self governance than at any time before.  Like any other group, including faculty, at the university, if we expect students to embrace conduct rules, they ought to feel invested in their construction and operation--and not not as photo opportunities. And because they are students, the rules that ought to bind them  ought to be focused on their needs, rather than on the social engineering or management control agendas of others.

This post  includes parts of a story recently posted to the Penn State Collegian Online about student efforts at participating int he reform of the conduct code (Jess Savarese, CCSG to Talk About Honor Code, Collegian OnLine, Nov. 9, 2012)and the charge to the Student Conduct Code committee. You comments about this Honor Code project is actively solicited!

CCSG to talk about Honor Code
By Jess Savarese
Collegian Staff Writer

At CCSG’s second meeting of the semester, representatives will discuss the Honor Code that addresses students’ ethics and academic integrity.

The Council of Commonwealth Student Governments is meeting tonight from 8 to 10:35 p.m. and on Saturday from 9 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. at the HUB-Robeson Center in Heritage Hall.

“The Honor Code is going to be looking into having students be more ethical in terms of cheating, plagiarism and actually holding students more accountable,” CCSG Vice President Chandra Ulinfun said.

The terminology, “Honor Code,” is a tentative name for the project, Ulinfun said.

The topic will be open for discussion to get an idea of what the Commonwealth Campuses want to see with it.

“The Honor Code, I think, is a really good idea because it’s kind of an all-encompassing code for the entire University. It eliminates all the confusion from college to college. So this is kind of an umbrella code that would eliminate any confusion,” CCSG Secretary Paige Blawas said.

The updated Honor Code would allow for a more positive change in environment at Penn State and create the best practice for Penn State, CCSG President Ben Clark said.

“I think it’ll be great fore the University as a whole to implement this and take this on,” Clark said.

The Honor Code would also make Penn State more unique because it would be built on a peer-to-peer foundation rather than it being something that comes from faculty, Clark said.

“I think that it would have students be more accountable and make them feel more obligated to report someone’s plagiarism or a person cheating if they see it,” Ulinfun said.

CCSG is looking to get more feedback about the Honor Code at the meeting.

“We really hope that the [Commonwealth] Campuses will latch onto this. It can’t happen at just one location, it has to go across everyone,” Clark said.

There will also be talk of a campus safety website, which is a centralized website for professors to notify students of class cancellations as an alternative to notifying through email.

A few Commonwealth Campuses already use it, and a stressed importance is on using it at commuter campuses, Clark said.

Additionally, representatives will be making updates to the Constitution to ensure it’s in compliance with guidelines.
 The Honor Code Committee Charge reads as follows:
Academic integrity and related codes of behavior and behavioral expectations for students, including so-called “Honor Codes” and conduct principles, have become an important regulatory tool for universities. Over the last decade, these codes, in all of their forms, have also presented a number of issues for universities, including issues of complexity, overlap, policy and code incoherence across units and campuses and the like. Recognizing their collective importance, in 2000 the University Faculty Senate adopted a new policy, 49-20, to address the issue, in part. Since the policy was adopted, technology has advanced and become more readily available. New sources of information have been created and access to those sources has markedly improved. These attributes may increase the temptation of some individuals to lower their personal ethical standards regarding course work and exams. Simultaneously, the university has increased its focus on the management of student behavior within increasingly complex and diverse communities. To the end of examining the issues raised by the proliferation of these codes, an Academic Integrity Advisory Group, comprising several associate deans, chairs of college Academic Integrity committees, and representatives of the Graduate School has been working since early 2010 to re-examine the issue. In addition, at least two colleges, Smeal College of Business and the College of Communications, have adopted what they refer to as honor codes for their students. Other colleges might be considering developing their own honor codes, so the time is ripe to examine the question of the appropriateness of developing an honor code for all Penn State students.

In November 2011 Chair Dan Hagen charged an "Academic Integrity/Honor Code” Task Force to (1) Review the current policy 49-20, Academic Integrity, in light of the recent work of the Academic Integrity Advisory Group, led by Yvonne Gaudelius (a member of the Academic Integrity/Honor Code Task Force) and recommend revisions as necessary; (2) Benchmark with other CIC institutions and other top tier institutions regarding existence and tenets of honor codes at those institutions; and (3) Prepare and submit to the Senate Committee on Undergraduate Education by March 1, 2012, a report on findings and a recommendation on the merits of developing an honor code and/or recommended revisions to Senate Policy 49-20. Co-Chaired by Keefe Manning and Pamela Hufnagel, the Committee delivered its report to Chair Hagen on January 9, 2012. The Committee recommended the adoption of a single, unified and compact statement of honor and integrity. This "Student Conduct Code" would be driven by clear objectives to: (1) be readily accessible by and understandable to the average Penn State student; (2) Include those core expectations applicable to all student members of the Penn State university community, whatever their status or location; (3) clearly specify reasonable expectations of conduct and academic integrity that consolidates University (including unit) statements of academic integrity, principles, codes of honor or conduct and related conduct expectations that are in accord with shared Penn State values; and (4) Provide for expeditious, fair and simple procedures to deal with enforcing the Statement. The Student Honor Code for Penn State Students would replace all existing codes, including honor or academic integrity codes, statements of principles, rules of behavior or otherwise.

Since that time, the University has also committed to developing student conduct and ethics codes for student athletes and related personnel. These conduct codes are also particularly relevant to the work of building a singular set of conduct rules that can be easily understood and followed by all students.

To that end this "Student Conduct Code” Committee is charged as follows:

(1) Gather all of the existing University statements of academic integrity, principles, codes of honor and related conduct expectations, including without limitation relevant Senate Policies such as Policy 49-20, then review and distill from them a single set of conduct expectations that reflect the full range of behaviors that reasonably ought to be covered and that are now the subject of the various conduct, academic integrity and other codes or principles;

(2) In consultation with appropriate Faculty Senate Committees, Yvonne Gaudelius or her designee, student organizations and administration, faculty unit leaders, the NCAA and athletics representatives, and other relevant stakeholders, draft a comprehensive "Student Conduct Code" with appropriate explanatory commentary for the guidance of those who might use it.

(3) After an opportunity for comments by Senate Officers and at the Senate Chair's direction, prepare and submit to designated Faculty Senate Committees the draft "Student Conduct Code" with accompanying Commentary, and a supporting report, identifying all actions necessary to be taken adopt the Student Conduct Code with the effect, once adopted, of replacing all other academic integrity codes, codes of conduct and behavior, principles and the like now in effect.

(4) It is understood that the core objective is to develop a set of conduct rules that are common to all students in every academic discipline and athletic endeavor. It is also understood that the particular needs of some disciplines may result in the development of supplemental provisions, including process provisions, that may be peculiar to that school or program. But the fundamental premise is that in the absence of a compelling reason, all students will be subject to the same behavior standards and the same set of ethics and integrity expectations at Penn State.
This Conduct Code, of course, is not meant to operate in isolation. The Committee is free, with due regard to the long tradition in the United States for the protections of individual liberties, to also develop proposals touching on cultures of integrity and the management of conduct, belief and socio-cultural structures within which Student Conduct Codes are rendered more effective.

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