Sophomores, Sciences Saw Most Honor Council Cases Last Year

UPDATED: October 20, 2016, at 3:35 p.m.

The vast majority of 115 academic dishonesty cases the College’s Honor Council heard last academic year occurred in courses offered in the Sciences Division or the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, according to the adjudicating body’s first-ever annual report.

In addition, members of the Class of 2018 were the most likely to have been investigated, and the most common assignment type the Honor Council investigated was problem sets.

Updates on the Honor Council
Associate Dean for Academic Integrity and Student Conduct Brett Flehinger.

Out of all cases brought before the Honor Council, the body found that about three-quarters of students investigated had violated the College’s Honor Code. In total, 44 percent of all students investigated were found responsible for an academic integrity violation that resulted in a “change in status,” with measures ranging from probation to requirement to temporarily withdraw from the College; no one was dismissed from the College last year on the grounds of academic integrity.

Forty-three percent of cases in which students were found guilty resulted in disciplinary probation, and 16.3 percent of guilty cases resulted in a requirement to withdraw.

The Honor Council—the administrative body composed of students, faculty, and administrators that adjudicates cases of academic dishonesty—emailed the data to College students Wednesday morning. The report marks the first the body has released since its debut last fall, after the Faculty of Arts and Sciences voted to approve the first-ever Honor Code in spring 2014.

The Honor Code’s rollout came after a massive cheating scandal in a government course swept the College in 2012. Administrators called it “unprecedented in anyone’s living memory,” and more than 100 students were initially implicated for inappropriately collaborating on a final exam.

This year’s Honor Council showed that considerably more cases involving sophomores than any other class year.The report indicated that the differences across class years “merits further investigation,” but added that students’ sophomore years are often “characterized more generally by times of transition, from Yards to Houses, and from introductory classes to courses more directly aligned with concentration plans.”

Additionally, more than 90 of the 115 total cases heard by the Honor Council fell under the Sciences Division and SEAS, with students in humanities classes seeing the fewest number of appearances before Honor Council.

This year’s report concludes by noting the College and students can work on clarifying what assistance is available and “what the realistic consequences of incomplete work will be.”

At a town hall Wednesday evening hosted by the Honor Council to discuss and solicit feedback on the report, Associate Dean for Academic Integrity and Student Conduct Brett Flehinger and undergraduates on the Council discussed potential opportunities to reduce instances of plagiarism and inappropriate collaboration.

On plagiarism specifically, Honor Council Nathaniel R. F. Bernstein ’17 said he sees “real opportunities for pedagogical intervention,” specifically in teaching students how to better paraphrases in their academic writing. Regarding improper collaboration on assignments and problem sets, Nina Srivastava ’18, another member of the body, noted a need for individual courses to clarify collaboration policies.

Flehinger added that the Honor Council will look to partner with individual departments in the future, hoping to spark conversations about integrity within undergraduate concentrations.

Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana attended the beginning of the event and provided opening remarks.

During the 2015-2016 academic year, the Honor Council was comprised of 26 voting members. In addition, the Council had 12 Student Academic Integrity Fellows—undergraduates trained in the policies of the Honor Council but who do not have voting powers, provided assistance to students going through the Council’s process. Flehinger said he was pleased with the SAIF program’s success, as a majority of students who sought additional support in the Honor Council hearing process chose to work alongside a SAIF.

—Staff writer Jalin P. Cunningham can be reached at jalin.cunningham@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter@JalinCunningham.

—Staff writer Ignacio Sabate can be reached at ignacio.sabate@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @ignacio_sabate.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

CORRECTION: October 20, 2016

On second reference, a previous version of this article incorrectly indicated incidents from courses within SEAS and the Social Sciences Division represented the most honor council cases last year. In fact, SEAS and the Sciences Division did so.

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