A student-run body at the University of Colorado in charge of reviewing and sanctioning claims of academic cheating is in the process of undergoing changes that will remove a large portion of responsibility from students' control.
The Honor Code Council, established as a student-run campus entity, has been handling cases of academic dishonesty like plagiarism and cheating since 2002.
According to the university, recent concerns about relying on students to decide the outcome of cases prompted a draft to change the council structure so students were no longer in the driver's seat.
A draft of the proposal obtained by the Daily Camera discussed delegating the adjudication process to the Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution, with students and faculty serving as consultants.
"The proposal is still in draft, but, generally, the goal is to have a more equitable and fair process for students," Candace Smith, CU's assistant vice chancellor for strategic media relations, wrote in an email.
Because the proposal remains under review, Smith said sharing the most updated draft would be inappropriate. Changes in the structure and operation of the council could happen as early as this month, she said.
Students in the Honor Council as well as members of the associated Campus Ethics Committee, made up of student and faculty representatives from around CU, said they were not consulted when changes to the council were drafted.
The draft proposal for "an interim solution" to concerns related to the council came through the provost's office via Student Affairs, per a request from the Boulder Faculty Assembly, Smith said. Student Affairs modeled the proposal after the best practices of other universities.
"The students were told if they aren't on board with the changes, then they should find new jobs," said Travis Tallent, a CU graduate and former chair of the Honor Code. "The students can't afford to lose their jobs, even if their roles change."
Proposed roles for students now include having an equal number of faculty and students on an advisory board that the Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution could consult, and including students in the administrative and educational side of honor code violations.
Feedback from the Honor Council on the new proposal was solicited and has been incorporated into proposed changes, Smith said.
Some students and faculty currently involved in the Honor Code who were upset about the changes feared retaliation if they spoke out against the administration, so Tallent shared some of their points.
Tallent defended the merits of students serving as decision-makers in academic dishonesty cases. The hearings include students from the accused student's department to bring a deeper institutional knowledge into the investigation, he said.
"The importance of a student-run honor code has always been that there is a large part of understanding from student to student because these are not very cut and dry," Tallent said.
"For example, students who are copying computer code," Tallent said. "It's important to have a student who understands these types of concepts and can articulate them to the other panelists. Students can better understand what's clear in a syllabus and what's not. If a professor is clear about directions or not. Moving it to someone who has never even likely attended CU Boulder and is not familiar with the intricacies — that's an issue."
Tallent also argued the leadership role provided CU students with valuable experience that would be detrimental to take away.
Faculty would still have full discretion to address honor code violations in the classroom, CU said.
"The concerns are primarily about the current structure, which relies on students to hear cases, the lack of faculty involvement in the process, administrative inconsistencies, and the length in which the cases are resolved," Smith wrote.
Michaele Ferguson was the most recent faculty adviser of the Honor Code Council, serving from 2015 until last month.
When asked about the changes being proposed, Ferguson said, "We should have a transparent and inclusive process for any changes to the Honor Code Council."
Smith said everyone in the university community is invited to submit ideas for the Honor Code with a white paper through the university's ongoing Academic Futures process.
"Keep in mind this is a temporary solution as a more permanent solution could be developed through the Academic Futures process," Smith wrote.
Elizabeth Hernandez: 303-473-1106, email@example.com