Faculty Approves Ad Board Reforms

To address concerns about the severity and vagueness of the Administrative Board’s policies, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences voted to expand the College’s sanctions for academic dishonesty violations and to clarify policies regarding student collaboration.

The reforms, ratified by FAS on Tuesday, provide the Ad Board with two new, and arguably less severe, options when issuing rulings in academic dishonesty cases.

The changes also include a new provision that allows students to assume some collaboration is permitted in their coursework unless otherwise stated.

While Faculty members will continue to be required to inform the Ad Board—the College’s primary disciplinary body—of incidents of academic dishonesty, they will also have new powers to administer “local sanctions” in conjunction with Board and the department chair. These local sanctions—one of two new responses to academic dishonesty that the Board will have at its disposal—will include mandatory tutoring, a required rework of the assignment in question, or a grade reduction.

The Ad Board will also be given the power to exclude a student from a course, which will have the same consequences as failing a course.

Many administrators and faculty members say teaching staff are sometimes reluctant to turn students over to the board because they see required withdrawal as an overly-severe response. Over the last five years, 36 percent of academic dishonesty cases have resulted in required withdrawal from the College.

“Hopefully, [the reforms] will result in a more systematic application of policy and more teaching moments,” wrote Matthew L. Sundquist ’09, a member of the since-dissolved Committee to Review the Administrative Board, in a conversation via Skype from Argentina.

“Sometimes cases of academic dishonestly are less about dishonesty rather than a lack of understanding,” said Secretary of the Administrative Board John “Jay” L. Ellison. “This is an educational institution, and the idea is that we have these teaching moments and we don’t want to miss out on them.”

The second change affirmed by the Faculty clarifies requirements regarding outright collaboration, discussion, and proofreading.

“If the syllabus or website does not include a policy on collaboration, students may assume that collaboration in the completion of assignments is permitted,” the changes read. “Collaboration in the completion of examinations is always prohibited.”

These changes are meant to promote a more open exchange of ideas and codify acceptable practices.

“We don’t want it to be that the students don’t know what it is expected of them, and that’s what it’s been like in the past years,” said Ellison.

This marks the second round of reforms that have come out of the Committee to Review the Ad Board’s report to Dean of the College Evelynn M. Hammonds.

Members of the committee say they are glad the Faculty has voted to put their recommendations in place.

“I think the members of [the] committee are pleased with this most recent implementation of the Ad Board Review Committee recommendations,” Donald H. Pfister, a professor and a member of the review committee, wrote in an e-mail. “It seems to me that those present at the Faculty meeting were satisfied that the recommendations that were made helped clarify the expectations of faculty and students alike.”

Previously, the Faculty voted to have students testify before a subcommittee of the Ad Board instead of the entire committee and to adjust the role of the Allston Burr resident deans in the process.

—Staff writer Eric P. Newcomer can be reached at newcomer@fas.harvard.edu.

—Staff writer Naveen N. Srivatsa can be reached at srivatsa@fas.harvard.edu.

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