Section: News

New academic infractions rules to focus on being more proportionate

In a faculty meeting on March 25, Kenyon faculty voted to revise the rules governing student academic infractions. The changes, which will come into effect in fall 2019, are intended to make the infraction hearing process more consistent and fairer to individual students.

The Kenyon website lists three “tiers” of severity regarding academic infractions. Tier Three infractions include instances of cheating, plagiarism and falsification that are extreme enough to warrant expulsion or suspension from the College. Tier Two infractions, which can include copying on an exam or plagiarizing parts of an essay, might lead to harsh grade penalties or the failure of a course.

Tier One infractions can be far more innocuous: “inappropriate collaboration” and “inadequate or careless citations” are two of the examples listed on the College website. Because they may be committed unintentionally, most Tier One infractions result in only a warning, or, in extreme cases, the failure of the assignment.

Subsequent infractions, however, have been weighted more heavily. Under the current rules, students found guilty of a second Tier One infraction — whether or not it bears any similarity to the first they committed — have their penalty upgraded to Tier Two.

Under the new rules, the instructor and the chair of the department will have more discretion in deciding whether a second Tier One infraction should qualify as Tier Two.

A student who makes the same infraction multiple times despite warnings will still be referred to the Academic Infractions Board, but cases of two unrelated infractions can now be handled  within a department. Delaney Barker ’20, the vice president of academic affairs on Student Council, hopes that this will reduce incidences of disproportionate punishment.

“I think it’s very easy to make two very different mistakes,” Barker said. “I think that’s why [the new system] will help students. It’s more fair to them, but it also doesn’t make the process unpredictable. You still know what’s going to happen to you if you do one thing or another.”

Dean of Academic Advising and Support Thomas Hawks believes that the primary purpose of Tier One penalization should be educational, and hopes that the changes will bring it in line with this goal.           

“We often expect that students, especially new students, might not know how to cite something in a way that doesn’t violate conventions within the discipline,” Hawks said. “They may not mean to be cheating; they just don’t know how to do it in the right way. The Tier One really exists in cases like that so that the instructor can go back and say, look, this is why you can’t do this, but we don’t think you were trying to cheat so there’s not a significant penalty attached to it.”

Several other changes were introduced to the system with the goal of making the Tier One hearing process easier to understand. Students will now be given more time to prepare before Tier One hearings, and will be allowed to take a member of staff or faculty into the hearing with them, a privilege previously reserved for Tier Two and Tier Three hearings.

In addition, the information provided to students about the Tier One hearing process will now be standardized across all departments, a practice that was already in use in Tier Two and Tier Three hearings.

Details on Kenyon’s academic infraction policy can be found on the Kenyon website, though the website only reflects the policy as it currently stands. The information will be updated early next academic year, after the changes go into effect.


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