February 16, 2007
Present: Mark Martin, Chris Kline, Gary McCall, Debbie Chee, Kevin David, Seth
Weinberger, Wade Hands, Brad Tomhave, Mike Spivey, John Finney, Jack Roundy,
Danya Clevenger, Bill Kupinse, Ken Clark, Ben Bradley
1. Minutes: The January 26 minutes were approved as written.
2. Announcements: Debbie Chee reminded us that the Phillip Glass event will take
place tonight at 8 pm. Roundy reminded us that February 26 is the automatic W
deadline in our new course withdrawal policy. After that date the default grade for
students withdrawing will be WF, unless students can make a case for unusual
circumstances beyond their control, in writing, to their instructors.
3. Petitions Committee (PC) Actions: Tomhave provided the following report of PC
actions since our last meeting.
10 (8 R)
9 (7 R + 1 PPT)
4 (1 R + 1 PPT)
145 (34 R + 39 PPT)
No Action
4. Hearing Board Update: Finney scheduled a March 19 Hearing Board meeting to
adjudicate a grade grievance. He reported that so far only one of five students who
approached him with potential grade grievances after fall term has decided to pursue
the matter to a Hearing Board. This term’s Hearing Board is comprised of two faculty,
Kline and Spivey, two students, Clevenger and Bradley, a Student Affairs
representative, Chee, and an Academic Affairs representative, Finney.
Finney also reported that the Hearing Board would have had a second offense
academic dishonesty case to adjudicate this spring, but the student in question has
taken a leave of absence, so his case will be deferred until his return. In response to a
question about how many academic dishonesty cases we receive in a year, Finney
estimated that about a dozen is typical, and said that this year has been about
average. But so far this year, no second offenses have been adjudicated.
5. Academic Honesty Subcommittee: The subcommittee (Weinberger, Martin,
Austin) reported on work they have done so far. Weinberger explained that they began
by researching policies of other schools—regional peers, national comparables, next
step institutions. In general, he said, the better the institution, the more
comprehensive its policies with respect to academic honesty. He circulated web
information from Princeton, Amherst, and Middlebury as examples of comprehensive
Weinberger found that the best policies are expressed within a well-defined “academic
environment” as a context in which plagiarism is aberrant. He said he thought it was
critical for Puget Sound to properly introduce new students to our scholarly
community as we define appropriate scholarly behavior—a critical moment, therefore
is new student orientation. For new students, we must characterize this new
environment not as 13th grade, but as a place where their new role is to be junior
colleagues to their faculty mentors, learning appropriate scholarly behavior as they
learn course material.
Weinberger also raised the common critique of our academic culture that we are
“coddling” our students rather than encouraging their academic autonomy. And he
mentioned the view that a lot of students arrive at Puget Sound with a “productoriented” mentality (I just have to produce that paper) rather than understanding that
the academic endeavor is a process. He repeated that introducing students to our
academic culture more pointedly during orientation, particularly in Prelude, would be
Martin commented on some models he’d seen online. At Swarthmore, a convicted
plagiarist was obliged to write an essay about what led him to offend and what he
learned in the aftermath of being caught. This essay was to be used as a warning to
others. The irony of this story was that the student re-offended later. Weinberger
pointed to a quiz Amherst uses to teach and test student knowledge of what
plagiarism is. He thought this tool could be useful to us. He favored promoting
strategies to avoid plagiarism on the assumption that most offenses are either
unintentional or panic-driven. Princeton, he noted, obliges students to sign an
academic honesty statement, and employs an honor code to which every student is
expected to subscribe. Princeton offers trust (e.g., unproctored exams) in exchange for
the honor code commitment. In the end, Weinberger thought culture change might be
our most meaningful goal.
Martin thought that if we could give our students the Princeton quiz, it would lead to
useful data as to their level of understanding. Perhaps we could give it to students
again when they are seniors, to see how much they have matured. David suggested
we might even make the Princeton materials a mandated part of Prelude. Roundy
reported that at a recent Orientation Planning Committee meeting (where academic
honesty is also a current topic) Prelude representatives were leery of the “inoculation”
strategy. The same representatives did favor offering a robust introduction to the
meaning and purposes of our academic community, however. This, they thought, was
already an integral purpose of the Prelude program.
Hands spoke in favor of giving students very specific information on what is acceptable
scholarly practice, because it is easier to confront offenders if the information can be
assumed to be known. Kupinse pointed out that there are limits to what Prelude
instructors can do to address plagiarism in the time they have with their students, but
in WR seminars, many instructors spend quite a lot of time on it. David pointed out,
however, that neither seminar rubric mandates teaching this material. Roundy
reported that in the Orientation Planning Committee, Julie Neff-Lippman suggested
adding the academic honesty material to the Scholarly and Creative Inquiry (SI)
seminar rubric rather than to Writing and Rhetoric (WR), for two reasons: 1) WR is
already “packed” with objectives, and could scarcely accommodate more; and 2)
“scholarly expectations” do seem appropriate to the SI rubric. Kupinse told the story
of a Vanderbilt system where a team of student inquisitors in blue blazers descended
upon offenders to confront them, instruct them, and determine what punishment, if
any, was warranted. He commented that it was his sense that Puget Sound is not
doing too badly without blue blazers, given low incidence of reported offenses.
Finney said he has always worried that our handful of reported offenses are actually
“the tip of the iceberg.” Faculty often don’t report offenses on the assumption that
their student’s misstep was his first. Rather than report, they handle the situation
themselves, resulting in too many “first times,” Finney feared. Finney was asked if
there were a way we could require faculty to report offenses. He replied that our policy
already mandates reporting, but it is unenforceable.
Chee said she favored introducing the topic early (as is already done at Convocation),
including an introduction to our academic community, but cautioned against the
expectation that this early introduction would suffice. Kupinse said he thought our
culture, being small and personal, makes student behavior more visible, and he
believed that our scrutiny of student work successfully dampens cheating. Kline said
the common Puget Sound practice of “tailoring” assignments to discourage plagiarism
has been an effective means of discouraging offenses. She also noted that draft-bydraft process writing has been an effective deterrent.
Tomhave was asked how many reported offenses he sees per term. He replied that he
receives about 10 reports, one of which is a second offense. But he said he doesn’t
keep track of the count for the sake of confidentiality. David wondered how tallying
instances (without using names) would violate confidentiality. Tomhave replied that
our system works because it is confined, and confidentiality for students helps it to
work (both instructor and student are more likely to be cooperative when
confidentiality is guaranteed). To make any other uses of the process, Tomhave said,
could constitute a violation of the agreement with the student. David wondered if by
guaranteeing confidentiality we were actually “coddling” a cheater. Hands said he
likes the reporting system we have, and like David, didn’t see a problem in counting
reports. Hands said he would encourage us, when we make a change to materials
given to students, to make them “black and white,” to give students clarity (however
ambiguous we as scholars know the issues are).
6. Study Abroad Record Keeping: We returned briefly to this topic, taking it up at
the point where Kupinse recommended a note on the transcript indicating that the
student had studied abroad, and another transcript was available. BT said he thought
experienced readers of transcripts (e.g., graduate admission professionals) would have
little trouble seeing that work taken at another institution was reported on our
transcript, given the method he chose. In fact, he said, the “unit” problem is likely to
remain a greater source of confusion than study abroad will ever be. Finney said that
unless the committee wants to make other suggestions, the Registrar will move
forward with revisions as planned. Roundy asked whether Tomhave intended to add
the note suggested by Kupinse, and he said he did not. Kupinse acquiesced. No
further suggestions were made, and no vote was taken.
As the hour was growing late, Kline suggested we resume our discussion of academic
honesty at the next full meeting.
With that, we adjourned at 8:53.
Respectfully submitted by the ASC amanuensis,
Jack Roundy