Almost five months after the Academic Integrity Report Reconciliation Committee was created, the committee has published its final recommendations that, if implemented, would dramatically alter the Honor Committee and the Committee on Discipline.
“We believe that the recommendations submitted here will significantly improve the Honor System and increase student and faculty commitment to upholding it fully,” the report wrote.
The report and its recommendations were released in an email sent on Wednesday, Feb. 13 to the student body and faculty from Dean of the College Jill Dolan, Vice President for Campus Life W. Rochelle Calhoun, and Dean of the Faculty Sanjeev Kulkarni. The recommendations include a broader range of penalties for violations of academic integrity and revisions to the Honor Committee’s investigative procedures, as well as making the process more transparent.
“My sense is that everyone wants this process to be more transparent, more fair, and more humane,” Dolan said in an interview with The Daily Princetonian, “and that was the basis on which all the work the faculty-student committees have done these past two years proceeded.”
The report comes a year after the University declined to implement three of four referenda passed by the student body that promised to shake up the Honor System by reducing the standard penalty, among other changes. They were rejected, according to the faculty, because of the lack of faculty input in developing the changes.
The Academic Integrity Report Reconciliation Committee comprises a number of faculty and students whose mission it was to reconcile the Honor System Review Committee (HSRC) report of August 2018 and the report of the Disciplinary Review Committee (DRC) of June 2017 and to present a set of final recommendations from the two.
“We are very pleased to have arrived at this moment on what’s been a two-year campus conversation, and many of the people who worked on it feel like we’re in a much better place at the end of the process than we were when we started,” said Dolan, emphasizing that the University welcomes feedback on the report.
The new report moves away from the idea of a “standard penalty” and toward a graduated penalty structure that would apply to both the Honor Committee and the Committee on Discipline.
If implemented, minor first-time offenses — such as overtime cases — would receive a “reprimand,” which would not appear on a student’s disciplinary record. Similarly, the report recommends that the Committee of Discipline and Honor Committee establish a one-semester suspension as a possible punishment.
“The Honor Committee is fully on board with the recommendations brought forward by the Reconciliation Committee and plans to work with students, faculty, and administrators in order to implement the changes in as timely a manner as possible,” Honor Committee Chair Camille Moeckel ’20 wrote in a statement to the ‘Prince.’
“I am pleased with the recommendations contained in the Reconciliation Committee’s report and look forward to working with colleagues and with the COD and the HC to implement them,“ said Dean of Undergraduate Students Kathleen Deignan, who also chairs the Committee on Discipline.
The report also advocates that the Honor Committee adopt the “months” standard for probationary period. The range of each period would vary from three to 48 months, instead of a number of semesters.
“We as a committee emphasize that we are recommending a broader range of penalties for violations of academic integrity at Princeton in order to allow fairer and more commensurate responses to the range of violations that have evolved over time,” the report wrote.
With the Honor Committee’s investigative procedures, the report endorses the improvement of the “timing and contents” of the first contact email sent to students under investigation, the elimination of character witnesses, and the adoption of “less confrontational” language in Honor Committee proceedings.
The initial report from the Honor System Review Committee recommended eliminating character witnesses, since the Honor Committee does not use the character testimonies in their evaluation.
According to the HSRC report, the Honor Committee automatically assumes the student’s “good character.”
The new report also includes recommendations to expand the elected student membership of the Honor Committee, to allow students to have a dean present or on-call during proceedings, and to pair professional investigators with Honor Committee student investigators.
The report calls for increased awareness among the students and faculty about the Honor System, namely through a “Guiding Principles” document that clarifies the “relationship among students, faculty, and administrators” in the Honor System.
The committee also recommends a module and quiz that students would take every two academic years as well as standardized language across syllabi and examinations that would address examination procedures and calling times.
The academic quizzes would replace the current summer module that students take before their first year at the University.
According to the report, some of the recommendations made may require a vote by the student body, the faculty, or both before being implemented.
Dolan, however, noted that, since she, Calhoun, Kulkarni, and Eisgruber have accepted the report’s recommendations, the recommendations do not need a vote from faculty and can be implemented.
“We’ll be happy to hear from the Honor Committee folks and USG to see whether they think there needs to be a vote, but these recommendations seem, to me, to be very much in line with where the referenda were taking us a year ago,” she said.
Though the new report aimed to address student concerns, not everyone is happy about how the reforms came to be.
Micah Herskind ’19, a former member of the Honor Committee and an integral member of last year’s campaign for Honor Code reform, thinks that the recommendations are “fine” and that the changes to penalty will improve outcomes for “some” students.
However, he believes that the new report is “premised on a lie.” Herskind notes that, although the University remanded the three referenda because there was not enough faculty engagement during the referenda process, the Honor Constitution itself says that amending the Honor Constitution requires no faculty engagement.
According to Article VI of the Honor Constitution, it can be amended by a three-fourths vote in a student referendum or by a three-fourths vote from the USG on an initiative supported by 13 out of 15 Honor Committee members.
“When we played by the University's rules to change the system, they decided to throw out the rule book and write another one, which they present to us in this report as if it were the original,” he wrote in an email to the ‘Prince.’
This story was updated at 8:37 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 13.