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UNC Honor system task force finalizes objectives for change

While reform to the honor system is already underway, faculty members are realizing there is still a long way to go.

At a meeting of the honor system task force Tuesday, members established where the committee’s attention will be directed.

While members made no definitive plans for the task force, faculty pinpointed four main objectives for reform.

Throughout the semester, members will review the honor system tradition, compare UNC’s honor system with those of other universities, create a student honor system survey and rewrite the language of the Instrument of Student Governance.

Each objective will be undertaken by separate task force subcommittees, said Jan Boxill, chairwoman of the faculty.

Boxill said the task force will first consider revising the language for determining if a student is guilty of an offense. Members hope to change the language from “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” to “preponderence of evidence” — echoing civil trials, not criminal.

“Many faculty members feel that the current language is too strong,” Boxill said. “This isn’t a court of law — we’re just trying to get a better understanding of academic law.”

Members also discussed the Turnitin pilot program.

Though no definitive plans have been made for the program since it was purchased Jan. 11, a pilot oversight committee is being formed, said Todd Zakrajsek, executive director for the Center of Faculty Excellence.

Zakrajsek said the committee, which will likely be formed by the end of the week, will have six to seven members, comprised of students, faculty and one member of the writing center.

While many committee members approved the program’s purchase, some were skeptical about its ability to educate students about plagiarism.

Members said the WriteCheck feature of Turnitin, which allows students to check their work for plagiarism prior to grading, teaches students how to avoid plagiarism, rather how to become educated about it.

“My greatest concern is that with this feature, students will just be changing words with no understanding of what they’re doing,” said Gigi Taylor, an English and comparative literature lecturer.

But Zakrajsek said he is only looking at the pilot as a preliminary trial, rather than a definite future University program.

“Everything we’ll try is just a resource,” he said. “I have no problem saying this is not the right thing for Carolina.”

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