Widgets Magazine

Faculty Senate proposes increases in Honor Code education

At yesterday’s Faculty Senate meeting, professor Eamonn Callan, co-chair of the Judicial Affairs Internal Review Panel, presented a comprehensive analysis of Stanford’s judicial process that recommends 23 main changes to increase the effectiveness of the Honor Code and Fundamental Standard at the University.

The document, titled “The Review of The Student Judicial Process at Stanford University,” encourages students, faculty and staff to be more critically engaged with the ethical values that underlie academic life and personal interaction at Stanford, according to Callan.

As a focus for this school year, the Internal Review Panel (IRP), created to address problems in the Judicial Affairs process, is proposing the the creation of a mandatory educational program for all new undergraduate and graduate students to help them better understand the Honor Code and Fundamental Standard.

The review also proposes the creation of a working group comprised of students, faculty and staff to produce and promote other regular educational initiatives that will make the Fundamental Standard and Honor Code more of an active part of student life and culture.

Professor of Biology Robert Simoni shared his opinion about the proper setting for these educational programs.

“This should be the center, in my opinion, of what residential education ought to do … I hope Res-Ed gets a special place in the education process at the very least,” Simoni said.

According to Callan, the other recommendations included in the document that relate to the 1997 Student Judicial Charter may take more time because of the complex process of making revisions to the Charter.

In such cases, the recommendations must first go to the Board of Judicial Affairs (BJA). Then, if the BJA decides to act, the proposed changes are sent to the ASSU and graduate student council for approval before they can be implemented.

Callan remarked that this process is good because it involves students in policies that will affect them, but at the same time it makes revising the charter very difficult.

“It’s a two-edged sword,” Callan said.

Because the IRP review took four years to complete, Callan explained that some of the information and recommendations it contains are now out of date.

“I think another committee should be formed to review recommendations that may no longer be timely,” Callan said.

In fact, because the research and analysis process for this review began so long ago, nine of the 23 proposed recommendations have already been implemented in the past few years.

However, he defended the final report by asserting that the time spent contributed to the overall quality of the analysis and by affirming that it was indeed a meaningful experience for those involved.

Some of the recommendations that have already been completed include: clarifying what constitutes a violation of the Fundamental Standard, the creation of a training program for judicial panelists to serve as judicial counselors and holding hearings no later than the quarter following the quarter in which the student was suspected of a violation.

At the meeting, director of the Office of Community Standards (OCS), Susan Fleischmann spoke of the challenges that OCS is facing — in particular, the overwhelming time-commitment required of reporting parties and other aspects that discourage faculty from wanting to get involved.

Because students are only found responsible under conditions of evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, reporting parties are asked to be involved in extensive deliberation of evidence and are expected to attend the case hearing. Sometimes, these cases can last up to several days, Fleischmann said.

As a result, some may be dissuaded from reporting violations of the Honor Code or Fundamental Standard.

Another complicating factor, according to Fleischmann, is the fact that an increasing number of students are bringing attorneys into the process, making cases much more difficult to resolve.

At Thursday’s meeting, several faculty spoke out in concern about letting students involve lawyers in their cases.

“The issue of lawyers is going to become a bigger and bigger problem. I’ve seen that change, and it’s going to be a big issue,” said physics professor Sarah Church, who serves as a faculty panelist in Judicial Affairs cases.

There are, however alternatives to the lengthy and involved complete judicial review process, which Fleischmann presented at the meeting.

The Early Resolution option allows students who admit guilt to expedite the review process. The Restorative Justice option for less severe cases involves a simple mediation session after which a student is required to perform some action like write an essay about the consequences of their actions and what they’ve learned.

According to Callan, the review is not simply an issue of “not cheating.” The deeper principles at play are those of inspiring ethical and moral integrity.

“We need to do a better job of raising awareness of what the Honor Code requires of us, and what the fundamental Standard means as a core principle for faculty and students and indeed staff to live by,” Callan said.

Callan urged faculty to make these subjects part of an on-going dialogue they have with students.


Contact Erica Evans at elevens ‘at’ stanford.edu.

  • alum

    Watch out Stanford students, I warn you. Susan Fleischmann and the OCS are looking to lower the burden of proof from “beyond a reasonable doubt” to “clear and convincing evidence,” or perhaps the even lower “preponderance of the evidence.” They haven’t said it outright yet because they don’t want to start a firestorm, especially in the midst of all of the attention being put on them about sexual assault. But make no mistake: this is the primary item on their agenda for the 2015-16 school year. They will pull strings, and they will buddy up with the right students dumb enough, and self-serving enough, to champion this cause.

    DO NOT LET THEM DO THIS. Llet your voice be heard when these administrators make a serious move to lower the burden of proof. Stand up for the rights granted to you by the charter. It might be your head that’s next on the chopping block.

  • Class of ’16

    On this issue of reporting, I find myself disinclined to do so because I don’t feel the harm to myself or my peers caused by mild infractions is enough to jeopardize the mental health and academic career of another student (by putting them through the judicial review process).
    Another student cheating takes nothing away from the intrinsic value of a course. I come away with the same knowledge. Worst case scenario, the grading curve is less in my favor, but I’d take a B+ over an A- if it means not putting another student through what will probably be an incredible amount of embarrassment and mental anguish. I’ve had friends go through it — kids have taken their own lives over less.

    If it were clear that a simple failing grade and the mediation described under the “Restorative Justice” process was the default for a first “offense,” I would feel much more comfortable reporting violations.