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AIB considers new system to handle cases

By Eric Geller

Members of the Committee on Academic Standards (CAS), which oversees the Academic Infractions Board (AIB), have been discussing changes to the AIB hearing and sentencing process in light of complaints about the current system. The discussions have involved Associate Provost Jan Thomas, Committee on Academic Standards Chair Dane Heuchemer, Dean for Academic Advising Jane Martindell, and AIB Chair Yang Xiao, along with Natalie Hession 13, the head of Student Councils Academic Affairs Committee.

One of the first steps the group has taken to streamline the process was to institute a pilot program involving a Fast Track hearing process. Hession said that three students have been selected for the first round of Fast Track hearings. At an initial meeting with Professor Xiao and Dean Martindell, they were offered a choice between the Fast Track process and a full hearing before the AIB.

Under the system currently in place, a faculty member reports a suspected academic integrity violation to the chair of his or her department, who decides whether to alert the AIB. If that happens, Xiao, as chair of the AIB, collects statements from the involved parties and any other relevant documents. If the AIB opts to hold a hearing, the ensuing planning process often takes several weeks. Schedules must be coordinated between the student, his or her advisor, the faculty member who reported the incident, the chair of the relevant department, and the full Board, for a total of more than 10 participants.

Currently the model we are experimenting with uses a similar hearing process but with fewer people in attendance, Thomas said.

Heuchemer said that the pilot program reflects the need to find the right balance between the number of people that would be needed to resolve the situation [and] the desire to have something thats rather flexible from a [scheduling] standpoint.

Heuchemer, who met with Hession and the Academic Affairs Committee two weeks ago, said it was important for any type of hearing to retain the authority and solemnity of the current process. When youre facing the full AIB with several faculty and several students, its a big legal event, he said. When you reduce that to somebodys office and a few people, how do you maintain the proper gravitas?

In the Fast Track pilot program, only Xiao, Thomas and Martindell will represent the College at infraction hearings. Hession, who previously served on AIB, said that the Fast Track process lightens the burden on student members of the AIB who volunteer their time to participate.

The time students volunteer to sit on this committee is a big undertaking, she said.

Fast Track is only a template for a broader overhaul of the process. Provost Thomas was speaking about redesigning the whole AIB process in general, Hession said. She wants to go to CAS and say, Lets scratch everything and draft something from the very beginning. Part of the problem, Hession said, is that some professors dont feel comfortable bringing incidents to the AIBs attention.

Sometimes theyd rather handle it on their own, Hession said. Thats not something the College wants to continue.

Hession said she didnt expect any changes to go into effect within the next year, but she did identify another specific proposal that was under discussion. Theyre talking about a tracking system, she said. Professors submit names of students whom theyve seen [commit a] first-time offense to the provosts office. This would enable Provost Thomas to track students across departments, a mechanism for easily identifying repeat offenders that currently does not exist.

Heuchemer said the system would allow professors to report suspicious behavior so that academic integrity committees could keep track of students whose academic practices needed addressing.

Were trying to interdict that initial experience with an academic infraction, which may be deliberative or more or less accidental, he said.

The CAS first brought up the issue of modifying AIB procedures at the Jan. 28 faculty meeting, and Thomas discussed the sometimes-cumbersome process of scheduling a hearing in an interview with the Collegian in February.

Hession said that the Fast Track hearings will continue until the end of the year. She expects CAS to vote on a proposal to modify the hearing process at the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year. If CAS approves the proposal, it will move to the Colleges Faculty Executive Committee for consideration by senior staff.

What Ive heard is its really up in the air, Hession said. Were trying everything we can but I dont know if weve found the perfect solution yet.

Heuchemer said that time was still needed to allow various committees to iron out problems. Id rather do it right than do it fast, he said.

Provost Thomas confirmed that a concrete proposal did not yet exist. There have been lots of conversations and some experimentation, she said, but no final changes yet.

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