Purpose, Background, and Judicial Procedures of the Undergraduate Honor System

Prepared by Mitchell D. Strauss for the Provost's Task Force on Academic Honesty April 8, 1996

Revised by Student Senate Academic Affairs Committee January 23, 1997

Revised by the Faculty Senate Ad-Hoc Honor Code Committee November 5, 1997

 

  1. Purpose/Background of the Honor System

    In March 1996, several members of the Provost s Task Force on Academic Honesty expressed concern with KSU s existing judicial process for handling breaches of academic honesty. They were worried that the current judicial process would not adequately support a new honor system. Their recommendation was to review the judicial processes of other universities that have honor codes, and draw up a series of recommendations for a new judicial system that could be introduced to the academic community at the same time that a new honor system is introduced. Judicial procedures from institutions such as the University of Virginia, the University of Maryland, Stanford University, University of California-Davis, Texas A&M, and Notre Dame University were examined and used to build a proposed new policy. A new judicial policy, if adopted, would replace the one currently described in the Student Life Handbook entitled C. Adjudication of Charges of Student Dishonesty and D. Punishments and Records of Findings of Dishonesty (found in the campus phone book on page 8).

    A new honor system was developed to create a positive environment on campus that will promote the concepts of academic honesty and integrity. It is the fervent hope of the Provost s Task Force on Academic Honesty that a new honor system would serve as the foundation for a new community of trust that will develop among members of the academic community. It is important to note, however, that a community of trust must be preserved and protected by forthright responses to acts of dishonesty. For this reason, all members of the academic community, both students and faculty, are absolutely encouraged to respond to acts of dishonesty by reporting the event to the newly developed Honor Council. While KSU requires faculty to respond diligently to academic dishonesty, we prefer not to compel students to report acts of dishonesty, instead we trust that students will do the right thing and take the action necessary to preserve their honor system by reporting an act of dishonesty.

    All official responses to reports of academic dishonesty will be managed by a new Honor Council, which will be comprised of both students and faculty appointed by their peers from the general academic community. The new Honor Council will only handle breaches of academic honesty, and will conduct hearings and appeals for adjudication. Grading disputes, and other non- academic, behavior related issues will be handled elsewhere by existing KSU systems. The Honor Council will use the long-standing Faculty Senate approved definitions of plagiarism and cheating. The Honor Council will annually review these working definitions and any suggested changes will go through the normal Faculty Senate procedures. 

    The new judicial approach will be a significant departure from the current system in which faculty, department heads, and deans are now burdened with the responsibility of taking punitive action for violations of academic honesty. Sanctions, if required, will be either given to the student directly by the professor or recommended by the Honor Council after appropriate due process. Consistent with the existing policy, faculty are required to file record of all violations of academic honesty. Under the new policy, the report will be filed with the Director of the Honor Council. Therefore, if a faculty member wishes to initially handle the violation themselves, the faculty member must file a notice stating what the violation was, how the matter was resolved, and that the student was made aware of the right to appeal the faculty member's decision to the Honor Council. As is now the case, students retain the right to appeal any faculty member s decision. Those appeals will now be handled by the Honor Council.

    The new Honor Council will be a joint commission of both students and faculty since both are integral elements of the academic community. Students appointed to participate on the Honor Council will be made available from the undergraduate population. Appointed members of the Honor Council will have a variety of responsibilities, depending upon circumstances. One very important responsibility of Honor Council membership will be to advocate the honor system by educating students and faculty regarding potential honor issues or violations. Honor Council members may advise students or faculty reporting potential honor issues or violations. Honor Council members may also be called upon to serve as neutral investigators of the facts involving an alleged violation. Finally, Honor Council members will serve the important role of being panel members during hearings regarding honor violations. To avoid conflict of interest, no Honor Council member will serve as both an investigator and an adjudicator for the same case. There should be an ongoing education/training program to prepare members of the Honor Council to deal with issues such as investigatory techniques, honor system advocacy, and the conduct of due process hearings.

    Upon passage of this document from the respective bodies, a Director of the Honor Council will be appointed by the Provost to oversee this honor system. One duty of this Director shall be to work with the new Honor Council members to formalize the policy into an Honor System Constitution. Upon implementation of the Constitution, the Honor Council shall create By-laws that it will be subject to. All procedures not specified either in the Honor System Constitution or By-laws shall follow Robert s Rules of Order, Newly Revised. Impeachment procedures shall be defined in the Honor System By-laws. The Honor Council shall also subject itself to an annual review process. The results of this review shall be presented to Student Senate, Faculty Senate, and the Provost no later than one month after its completion. 

    An honor system with its associated educational support and judicial response systems requires constant care and feeding. It is recommended that eventually an administrator, functioning with the Provost's authority, be charged to manage the new honor system. According to the literature, most large institutions with honor systems have a Director of Honor Systems and Related Judicial Affairs on staff. The key value of the administrator is to bring continuity, equity and improved management to the process. (Dannells, 1996) This director would serve as an ex officio member of the Honor Council.

  2. Undergraduate Honor System for Kansas State University 

    1. Introduction Kansas State University is a community of students, faculty, and administrators who come together to learn, work, and grow intellectually. The concept of community is central to our belief in the importance of honorable behavior for oneself and for the community as a whole. This strongly held value of honor and the expectations derived thereof are defined by K-State's Honor System. The Honor System is an assumption of trust which accompanies the student in all dealings with fellow students, faculty, and administrators. The atmosphere of trust grounded in this assumption of honor enables every student to know his or her word will be taken as true and to compete fairly in the classroom.

      The acceptance of individual responsibility is essential to our community of trust. The foundation of the Honor System depends entirely upon the willingness of every individual to live up to the standards set by fellow students, faculty, and administration. If we are to enjoy the benefits of a community of trust and integrity which the Honor System fosters, we must hold ourselves to the basic principles of honesty: we must never lie or cheat. In order to safeguard the privileges offered by the Honor System, we must respond forthrightly and proactively with those students who have disregarded the principles of honesty. 

    2. The Kansas State University Honor Code

      The Kansas State University Honor System is defined by the following Honor Code:

      1. That as K-State students they will not give or receive aid in examinations; that they will not give or receive unpermitted aid in class work, in the preparation of reports or in any other work that is to be used by the instructor as the basis of grading..
      2. That as K-State students they will do their share and take an active part in seeing to it that others as well as themselves uphold the spirit and letter of the Honor System. This includes reporting an observed dishonesty.

    3. The Honor Pledge Statement

      On all course work, assignments, or examinations done by students at Kansas State University, the following pledge is either required or implied:

      On my honor as a student I have neither given nor received unauthorized aid on this assignment. 

      This statement means that the student understands and has complied with the requirements of the assignment as set forth by the instructor.

  3. Judicial Procedures for a Breach of Academic Honesty 

    1. Report of a Breach of Academic Honesty 

      When a violation of academic honesty is observed by either a faculty member or a student, it will be normal procedure for the observer to report the event to the Office of the Director of the Honor Council. If the observer is a faculty member, they may directly address the violation and then file the appropriate report with the Director. For all cases not initially addressed by the faculty member, the Director will then assign two members of the Honor Council to serve as case investigators. The investigators will be charged with the responsibility of making contact with the observer within two class days. If the observer, after initial discussion with the investigators, wishes to proceed with the charge, the investigators will inform the Director, in writing, that an honor code violation has been officially alleged. This should be done within two class days (four if class is not in session) after contact with the observer. Within another two class days (again, four if class is not in session) , the alleged violator will be informed of the allegation in writing by the Director, and also be requested to prepare for a visit from the case investigators. Within a reasonable time frame the investigators will visit the alleged honor violator. The purpose of the visit will be to gather facts regarding the case from the perspective of the alleged violator. After the investigators complete the fact gathering process, the investigators will make a final report to the Director describing the particulars of the case. From the report, the Director will determine whether to dismiss the case or proceed with an honor hearing which will be conducted by an Honor Hearing Panel. The honor hearing, if required, should take place within ten class days of the report of an honor violation. 

    2. Honor Hearing Process 

      The Honor Hearing Panel will hold an honor hearing to determine whether or not a breach of academic honesty has occurred. The Honor Hearing Panel, which will be selected by the Director of Honor Council, will be composed of six members from the Honor Council, with five voting and one serving as a neutral chair. The voting members will consist of three student and two faculty members. The chair may be either a faculty member or a senior-level student. The investigators of a case may not serve on the Honor Hearing Panel of that same case. The alleged violator and the observer should attend the hearing. The charge and associated facts of the case will be considered by the Honor Hearing Panel. The honor hearing is not a trial. Formal rules of evidence commonly associated with a civil or criminal trial may be counterproductive in an academic invesitgatory proceeding, and shall not be applied. The Panel Chair will accept for consideration all matters which reasonable persons would accept as having probative value in the conduct of the Panels affairs. The review of facts will be non-adversarial. Participants and/or witnesses will be questioned only by members of the Honor Hearing Panel and by the individual accused of a breach of academic honesty. Students accused of a breach of academic honesty who elect to present a defense are required to defend themselves, although they will be afforded the right of having counsel present to serve in an advising capacity only. Character references will not be allowed as part of the proceedings. A majority vote among the Honor Hearing Panel will be required to reach a decision. If a situation arises where an honor hearing would need to be performed during the summer, that case will be tabled until hearings resume in the fall. 

    3. Criteria for Determining Whether or not a Breach of Academic Honesty Occurred 

      The evidence considered and a final vote regarding conviction by the Honor Hearing Panel should focus on the following three issues: 

      1. Did a breach of academic honesty occur?
      2. What was the level of intent during the act?
      3. What was the level of seriousness of the act? Would acceptance of the act seriously erode the integrity of KSU s honor system?

    4. Appeals Process

      If the Honor Hearing Panel decides with majority vote that a breach of academic honesty has occurred or if a student wishes to appeal the decision of a faculty member, an appeals process is available for the affected student. The student may appeal the decision of the panel on the basis of substantial new evidence or sufficient ground for good cause. Substantial new evidence is defined as evidence which was not available at the original trial and which has a direct bearing on the verdict. This appeal may be submitted within one year from the date of the decision. Sufficient grounds for good cause is defined as an infringement on the rights of the accused student because of any irregularities in the way the Honor Hearing Panel or faculty member conducted their business. An appeal of this type must be submitted to the Director of the Honor Council within fifteen days. A separate six member appeals board impaneled from the Honor Council by the Director would consider the issue. Faculty members who feel that the proceedings were not properly conducted may also appeal the decision within fifteen days. The period of appeals is one year from the date of the decision.

    5. Records

      All hearings should be taped, and kept as permanent record if a finding of violation is handed down. All proceedings will be kept confidential and subject to the provisions of the Family Rights and Privacy Act. Violations of confidentiality are grounds for dismissal as an Honor Council member. For those decisions handed down by individual faculty members, records of the case shall be retained in a central file by the Honor Council. As with the current system, those files will be available for consultation only by authorized parties if subsequent need arises.

    6. Punishment for Findings of Dishonesty

      If the Honor Hearing Panel finds that an attempt or breach of academic honesty did occur, it shall recommend an appropriate sanction, which will ordinarily be acted upon by the respective Dean. The normal sanction for the Honor Hearing Panel and for faculty members shall be a grade of XF in the course. An XF would be failure of the course with the X on the transcript indicating failure as a result of a breach of academic honesty. The Honor Hearing Panel and faculty members may also recommend a lesser or more severe sanction. Generally, acts involving advance planning, falsification of papers, collaboration with others, or some actual potential harm to other students will merit a severe sanction, i.e., suspension or expulsion, even for a first offense. An attempt to commit an act shall be punished to the same extent as the consummated act. The Honor Council will specify in their Constitution and/or By-laws whether or not an XF may ultimately be replaced with an F and what the criteria for the expungement shall be. 

    7. Appointment of Honor Council Members

      1. Student Members

        Undergraduate students wishing to represent their college will apply to the Student Body President no later than the third week of February. The Student Body President will appoint two students from each college to serve on the Honor Council. Diversity will be a consideration in appointing members. Since the College of Arts and Sciences is larger relative to other colleges, the Student Body President will appoint three students to serve on the Honor Council. All appointments will be made before the current term of the Student Body President ends and confirmed by the current Student Senate. Student terms will be for approximately two years beginning at the end of the spring semester in which they are appointed and concluding at the beginning of the respective summer semester. Students must have completed two full semesters of study at Kansas State University and be in good academic standing to be eligible to serve on the Honor Council. For the first year of implementation, half of the students appointed will be designated for one-year terms upon the discretion of the Student Body President, creating a staggered appointment process. Student members either appointed to one-year terms in the first year of implementation or finishing partial terms may be appointed for a full two-year term consecutively. All members appointed will participate in a training process to be planned by the Director of the Honor Council. No member of the Honor Council may serve two consecutive full terms.

      2. Faculty Members 

        Faculty wishing to represent their college will apply to the Provost no later than the third week of February. The Provost, in consultation with the respective deans, will appoint two faculty members from each college to serve on the Honor Council. All appointments will be made no later than the third week of March. Since the College of Arts and Sciences is larger relative to the other colleges, the Provost will appoint three faculty members to serve on the Honor Council. Faculty members will serve two year terms. For the first year of implementation, half of the faculty members appointed will be designated for one-years terms upon the discretion of the Provost, in consultation with the respective deans, creating a staggered appointment process. Faculty members either appointed to one-year terms in the first year of implementation or finishing partial terms may be appointed for a full two-year term consecutively. All members appointed will participate in a training process to be planned by the Director of the Honor Council. No member of the Honor Council may serve two consecutive full terms.

      3. Vacancies

        If an Honor Council member resigns, the position will remain vacant until an appointment is made to fill that term. The appointment will be for the remaining portion of the term, which will expire normally as to preserve the natural continuity of a staggered appointment process.

Report of the Ad-Hoc Honor Code Committee 

Summary of the discussion of and changes to the proposed Honor Code

by members Jeff Dougan, Kathy Grunewald, Susan Scott, Mitchell Strauss, and Nicole Johnson, chair.


November 5, 1997

These responses address the concerns and questions posed by faculty members when Faculty Senate discussed the proposed Honor Code.

  1. What constitutes cheating and should a formal definition be included in the policy?

    The committee feels that cheating, including plagiarism in many forms, has already been well defined on our campus. The Honor Council will not create new standards for cheating, but utilize the long-standing Faculty Senate approved definition from the Faculty Handbook. The Honor Council should review the working definition annually to see if revision is warranted, but any suggested changes to the Faculty Handbook would need to be presented to Faculty Senate for approval.

  2. Does a conflict of interest exist between the investigatory and judicial nature of the Honor Code? 

    After reviewing the investigatory and judicial processes of the Honor Council, the committee concluded that no conflict of interest would exist between these two roles provided that each Honor Council member serves in one capacity or the other, but not both, in the same case. The proposed Honor Code specifies that each member will not serve on the Honor Hearing Panel for a case in which the member served as an investigator.

  3. What would be the faculty member s role in the investigation? Would they have to continually push an investigation through the Honor Council? 

    The faculty member s role in the investigation of a act of dishonesty depends on the individual faculty member's preferences. Faculty members may either turn the case directly over to the Honor Council or may choose to deal with the issue themselves. If the faculty member chooses to handle the matter alone, it is their responsibility to set up a meeting time with the student, determine and act upon the appropriate sanction, make sure the student is aware of their right to appeal, and file a report of the incident to be sent to the Honor Council. The Honor Council would assume these responsibilities if the faculty member chose instead to initially turn the information over to the Honor Council. The committee suggests that a form be developed to assist faculty and students alike in reporting witnessed acts of dishonesty to the Honor Council. This method would greatly simplify the faculty member's role in the process and place all the burden for investigation and adjudication on the Honor Council.

  4. Should a plea bargaining procedure be included in the policy? 

    The committee saw plea bargaining as potentially harmful to the Honor Code in that it might lead to sanctions that don't appropriately fit the severity of the breach of academic honesty. Plea bargaining may be appropriate in dealing with minor infractions when the faculty members choose to adjudicate cases themselves, but is not suggested as an appropriate means for the Honor Hearing Panel.

  5. How would a summer hearing function if some of the faculty are not here over the summer? 

    Due to potential difficulty in finding not only students but faculty who would be available during the summer for a hearing, the committee decided that the best course of action would be to table any potential hearings until fall semester. The Honor Council might run into some problems with faculty pay and allocated time if any faculty members were required to be available for summer hearings.

  6. What would the cost of implementation be?

    The Provost has pledged to provide staff time to support and cover the costs of the Honor Council. The specifics of his support can be found in the accompanying letter.

  7. How would distance learning be affected? 

    Unfortunately, distance learning is still an evolving and somewhat gray area in terms of how it relates to many university policies. The committee felt that distance learners should be expected to maintain the same standards of academic honesty as residential learners and are entitled to the same opportunities for representation in the case of an alleged violation. The Honor Council should consult the university attorney for advice on due process when any unusual cases arise.

  8. Could the statement and have observed no other person cheating be added to the Honor System Pledge? 

    The committee found that adding this statement to the pledge would increase the responsibilities placed on students. Not only would they have to attest to the fact that they themselves didn t cheat, but would also become watchdogs for any other students who might cheat. The Honor Code proposal strongly encourages students to report witnessed breaches of academic honesty, but doesn t wish to compel them to do so. Adding such a strong statement before the Honor Council has had time to establish a greater sense of honor and personal responsibility on campus could ruin the Honor Pledge s credibility. The committee feels that inclusion of either this or a similar statement could be beneficial in the future and this question should be reexamined after the Honor Code is well established.