HCRC working behind schedule

Review committee enters final stage of review, expects to be late on recommendations

April 5, 2012

Part of a series on Honor Code Review

The Honor Code Review Committee (HCRC) is moving into the final stages of the review, changes to the Code, but it is expected that it will miss the deadline provided by its charge, moving the process into fall term.

The committee has begun analyzing the results of the surveys it gave to students and faculty last term.

Chair of the committee Mary Armon called the surveys an “incredible success.”

Although Armon said, “We honestly didn’t get that far in our discussions,” the committee has found several issues that need to be discussed, including a disconnect between students and faculty perceptions of the severity of certain types of cheating, such as working with other students on an individual assignment.

Moving forward

Although the committee, charged with recommending changes to the Code by the end of this school year, hoped to have meetings open to campus this term, these are “not going to happen as quickly as we had hoped” and might occur next fall.

“[We are] moving more slowly than the Academic Standing Committee wanted us to,” Armon admitted, but “it’s important to get it right.”

Honor Board Co-Chair senior Anne Heberle expressed a similar sentiment.

“As long as there is a change for the better I think it might be worth the wait,” she said.

According to Armon, the delay will not have a large effect on the college, because the college shuts down for the most part during the summer months. For several committee members who are seniors, however, the delay means they will not be involved with the end of the process.

Armon plans to deal with this by having the recommendations mostly drafted by the end of the school year and ready to be presented at campus-wide events fall term.

Once the recommendations are drafted, presented to the campus and revised, the committee will step back. Their role, according to Armon, is not “shepherding all the changes through.”

Addressing faculty concerns

One of the main reasons for the delay, according to Armon, is additional meetings or “focus groups” with faculty members who have concerns about the Board’s effectiveness.

The number of faculty members expressing “dissatisfaction with their experience taking cases to the Honor Board” in the survey, Armon said, surprised the committee.

Junior Anna Novikova agreed, and said, “I do think some professors are hesitant to take cases to the Honor Board because of severity.”

“The Review Committee needs to create a board which professors have faith in. If professors don’t have faith, they’re not going to turn students in,” junior John Cusimano, an interim member of the Honor Board in fall 2011, said.

Creating consistency

Another concern not directly addressed in the surveys is the consistency of Honor Board procedures and rulings, stemming partially from vagueness in the Code itself.

“It’s not clear whether there’s supposed to be somebody who’s playing the role of the prosecutor, and whether that is the co-chair or the person bringing evidence,” Armon said, explaining that co-chairs have interpreted this both ways in recent years.

Armon noted inconsistency in the rulings of the Board as well as procedures, with some Boards being more likely to take into account extenuating circumstances.

Cusimano saw in his time on the Board that “there’s varying standards of treatment that change not only from year to year but from case to case.”

Although redacted versions of past cases are available to Honor Board members, there is no central system for keeping track of precedent, and “it’s not always clear that [precedents] get remembered year to year by the board.”

Heberle does not know if these are utilized by members or not.

“That’s their individual decision,” she said.

Heberle said that although the Board changes from year to year, “We try and make it as consistent as possible; we try to take everything into account … [including] precedents.” Heberle does believe the Code would benefit from more modern language and specificity.

Cusimano also said that the committee should be “seeking to develop protocols that are easy to follow, that aren’t excessively judicial.”

“Since the Code was written so long ago, I think come of the language could be updated. That would give more guidance to the future boards,” Heberle said.

Lessening the burden

Another concern Armon had was the workload placed on the co-chairs, including talking to the accused, bringing evidence and setting up the hearing.

“Something about the procedures are going to have to change so that that job [co-chair] … isn’t so burdensome to the student who is taking it on,” Armon said.

Heberle said although the workload is heavy, “it’s definitely doable.”

The Board is implementing a new training system, which they hope will make the job even more manageable. Junior members who are future co-chairs will begin shadowing the current co-chairs and will begin running cases by the end of the year. This will allow them to address any questions that may arise while the co-chairs that came before them are still on campus and easily accessible.

The HCRC had a meeting with the Board as a whole in the fall and conducted “informal” interviews over email with past co-chairs, and although the committee is not officially planning on interviewing the co-chairs again, Armon said, “I think that would be worth doing,” as the co-chairs now “have a much deeper understanding of what they’ve been through.”

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