November 19, 2012

A. Report of the Dean of Students’ Task Force on the Student Conduct Board Outlining the Structure and Implementation of a New Student Conduct Board (D 10106-10108).

Chair Elect Hillary Hart presented the report prepared by the Dean of Students’ Task Force on the Student Conduct Board, which has proposed new procedures that would give students more involvement in the judicial process for cases of academic integrity violations and give them the responsibility to uphold the honor code. She explained that the task force would like to have feedback from faculty members regarding its proposal to provide the student being reviewed a choice of having his or her case heard by a panel of peers or by a hearing officer (a faculty or staff member). She clarified that the latter procedure is the only one available for hearing cases involving integrity violations at present. Chair Elect Hart explained that the impetus for the proposed change came from a presidential task force recommendation, as well as from revisions to the Regents’ Rules and Regulations in accordance with a model policy developed by the Office of the General Counsel.

Chair Elect Hart explained that the proposed conduct board would be comprised of thirty members—twenty-four students and six faculty or staff members. Student members would be a diverse group, representing all colleges and schools, as well as international students, and the Graduate School—to ensure that all students who come before the board would feel that they have appropriate peer representation. A selection committee not affiliated with the Office of the Dean of Students would select the student board members. The board would act through panels consisting of five members—four students and one faculty/staff member—plus two alternates appointed on an ad hoc basis for each individual case. According to a poll of students, 60 percent said they would choose a hearing by their peers if the option were available.

Dean of Students Soncia Reagins-Lilly added that the students had been very involved in creating the proposal, but it was important that faculty members were clear and comfortable with the new approach. When Professor Catherine Boone (government) asked what the student panel would be empowered to do, Chair Elect Hart replied, the panel would decide whether or not there should be disciplinary action. She added that there was an appeals process that would be available to the student following the decision of the panel. Professor Anthony Petrosino (curriculum and instruction) asked if this meant that the panel would rule on whether or not the case had validity and if the new system would be replacing the current one. Chair Elect Hart said the new process provided an alternate procedure to the current one, rather than a replacement for it.

President Powers said the President’s Student Advisory Council thought academic dishonesty was still an issue under the present honor code. He perceived that campuses with the most successful cultures generally had the most student involvement in their honor codes. Although there had been some interest in replacing the existing honor code here at UT Austin with a more student-oriented one, the president said both the task force and others who worked on the code were concerned about unintended consequences if too great a change were made. As a result, the decision was made to run the two alternatives in parallel and assess how well the new system would work. According to the president, the motivation behind adopting the new approach was based on the idea that increased student involvement in the culture of academic integrity would be helpful.

When Professor Patricia Roberts-Miller (English) asked what studies had been done on honor code systems and whether students tended to be more lenient than faculty, Chair Elect Hart asked if the students on the task force might respond. Mr. Andrew McKinley Clark (student representative, Senate of College Councils) said there was not much hard data, but people working in the student judicial field have reported that panels of students tend to be a little harsher than administrators. He added that students in general believe that academic dishonesty devalues their degrees.

When Professor Clayton Shorkey (social work) asked if a motion on the proposal were wanted, Chair Elect Hart said an affirmation of support would be greatly appreciated. Professor Shorkey then moved that the Council support the report because it was in line with student rights. Referring to his motion as an affirmation of support, Chair Elect Hart asked if a vote were appropriate at this time. Professor Alan Friedman (English and past chair) replied, the motion would need a second and a vote, and President Powers said he thought the motion was a resolution. The motion was then seconded and passed by voice vote with one abstention.

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