University Politics

Why SU officials are working to eliminate some student hearings from academic integrity policy

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Members of Syracuse University's Academic Integrity Policy Review Advisory Committee are looking to make changes to SU's academic integrity policy by eliminating hearings when students acknowledge they have violated the policy and classifying violations at three different levels.

Syracuse University officials are working to relax the university’s academic integrity policy and institute a sanction system so that, in some cases, students with minor offenses do not have to go through a formal hearing.

The revised policy aims at fixing specific problems that have come up over the years. Margaret Usdansky, the director of the Academic Integrity Office, said the Academic Integrity Policy Review Advisory Committee was addressing goals that include eliminating hearings when students acknowledge they have violated the policy and classifying violations at three different levels.

Each level of violation would correlate with a specific sanction: a formal letter of reprimand for level 1, academic probation for level 2 and suspension or expulsion for level 3, Usdansky said.

Student Association President Aysha Seedat said she is also on board with the revamping of the academic integrity policy.

“I think that the current policy is outdated and doesn’t take into account the ways in which students work nowadays,” Seedat said.

Seedat has also been involved with the revision’s process, specifically contributing to the idea of sanctions, which is a new concept for the policy.

The current policy only provides one avenue to take: a formal hearing, according to the Academic Integrity Office’s website.

Since the hearing is the only way a problem can be dealt with under the current policy, there are between 55 and 69 hearings per year. The sanctions would provide less time-consuming alternatives for lesser types of inflictions and save faculty and colleges resources, according to the website.

“We’ve outgrown the current system,” Usdansky said. “It’s time to modify it, keeping the aspects that work best and adding improvements to make sure our processes are as fair and effective as possible.”

Usdansky said the current academic integrity policy has been in place since summer of 2011. The 2011 version was an updated version of a policy created back in 2006.

She added that since 2011, the office’s caseload has increased from roughly 150 reported violations per academic year to about 250. That is a 67 percent increase.

“Faculty and instructors have become accustomed to the centralized reporting system,” Usdansky said. “With more reports and more hearings, we now need more flexibility and efficiency in our procedures — better ways to handle simpler cases more quickly.”

Proposals for revising the current policy were developed by the university-wide Academic Integrity Policy Review Advisory Committee, Usdansky said.  The committee was chaired by Ramesh Raina, a biology professor, and Jay Henderson, an engineering professor. The committee included faculty, students and senior administrators from every college, Usdansky said.

She added that the goal is to have a new, revised policy go into effect in either the summer or fall of this year.


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