Academic Integrity Committee

April 20, 2007




The entire meeting was devoted to discussion of sanctioning guidelines draft of 04/04/07, focusing mainly on the grade penalty.


The discussion opened with a draft matrix for determining the severity of the penalty.  The idea of a matrix itself drew some comment: text might be more helpful; the matrix as presented was too much of a formula, giving the impression of being too fixed.  It would be preferable to give more flexibility to those deciding the penalty while still giving some basis for consistency. 


One idea would be to provide a single statement about typical penalties in typical cases, opening with the qualification in bold type that these are guidelines, that mitigating and aggravating circumstances may significantly alter them.


In crafting the statement, it was proposed that plagiarism could serve as a middle case, drawing a range of penalties (low, medium, high) depending on the weight of the assignment or exam on the final grade for the course in question.


Discussion then turned to mitigating and aggravating circumstances, variations of the middle clase.  Two notes:

  1. theft and alteration are likely to result in more severe penalties
  2. for graduate students, the penalty tends to be all-or-nothing.


It was noted that there has been a problem of penalties imposed on international students being overturned on appeal.  To address this, it was proposed that the guidelines as a whole should include a statement that students are responsible for understanding the policies


One idea floated at this point would be to have a central statement and mitigating/aggravating circumstances for each of the different kinds of offense.  There were two worries about this: it would make the document too long, with seven separate guidelines; and there may be more than one offense in some cases.


On the question of brevity, it was noted that the guidelines might in the end be more valuable in teaching faculty about policies and expectations regarding academic integrity than they are in guiding judgments by the Honor Committee.


At this point, the committee turned in earnest to revising the 04/04/07 draft of the guidelines.  See attached for the resulting revision.


One further complication was introduced: parts and wholes.  Suppose a student cheats on one question on a re-grade.  One way to deal with this is to state explicitly the presumption that dishonesty on one part of an assignment casts suspicion on the entire assignment, and penalty will be based on the value of the whole assignment.