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Faculty Council divided over Honor Court

Reform of the University’s honor system is still in its early stages, and it has become clear that faculty in charge of the effort have their work cut out for them.

Widespread faculty dissatisfaction with the student-led system was on display Friday, with members of the Faculty Council voicing harsh criticisms of the system at the body’s monthly meeting.

“The fully student-run Honor Court is doing a poor job of enhancing intellectual honesty on campus,” said sociology professor Andrew Perrin, who designed a survey in the spring of 2010 to evaluate faculty opinion about the honor system.

That survey prompted the formation of a faculty committee, the recommendations of which were presented by professor Jay Smith at Friday’s meeting.

Smith’s presentation prompted individual faculty to voice complaints about the honor system.

One of the most prominent issues to emerge was how often faculty report issues to the system.

“We know of department (chairmen) who specifically discourage faculty from going to the court,” Perrin said.

Student Attorney General Jon McCay said faculty who do not report cases undermine the system’s effectiveness.

“One of our goals is equitable treatment, and if faculty aren’t reporting cases, then students will get varying degrees of justice,” McCay said.

Faculty members also discussed the idea of, in some cases, allowing students and faculty to agree to resolutions without involving the honor system.

Faculty said the resolution would encourage more faculty involvement but said it might prevent consistently fair decisions.
But chairwoman of the Faculty Jan Boxill said the faculty-student resolution system would not undermine the mission of the honor system. “It will provide an alternative way for educating and rehabilitating students,” she said.

Dean of Students Jonathan Sauls said the Honor Court would still regulate punishments in this option. “Using the system could help with the efficiency of the court,” he said.

But the honor system must also work to engage students, said those involved in the reform.

“The goal of the honor system is not adjudication — it’s education,” Sauls said.

Boxill said the committee on student conduct is developing plagiarism tutorials. Her goal is to make it mandatory to take the tutorial before an exam, she said.

Michelle Healy, chairwoman of the Honor Court, said the honor system has been coordinating with student groups to advertise the honor code.

“We are here to remind everyone that the code is here and we are continually responsible for abiding by it,” she said.

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