Originally created 03/27/04

UGA may tweak honesty policy



ATHENS, Ga. - Violators of the University of Georgia academic honesty policy soon might be given more wiggle room, as the faculty group charged with tweaking it is pushing for a more educational approach.

Under the policy, dubbed "A Culture of Honesty," first-time offenders are subject to discussions between themselves and the accusing professor - talks moderated by a third party selected by the university's Office of Instruction.

When a resolution isn't achieved, accused students face a panel of two students and one faculty member, which rules on the case. If suspended or expelled by the panel, students can appeal the ruling to the provost.

The educational affairs committee, which reports to the policy-making University Council, is proposing that students face a less formal atmosphere for the second step, something more closely resembling a discussion than a hearing.

"We are asking that the faculty member and the student continue discussing the incident in front of the hearing panel," said Debbie Bell, UGA's academic honesty coordinator. "(The panel) will determine the outcome just like they're doing now. It's just that we want the educational component to continue at the next level."

The University Council executive committee, during a meeting earlier this month, rejected another proposed change to the honor code, one that would afford students a third chance before automatic expulsion.

The policy now says second-time violators should be expelled from UGA, but even that isn't guaranteed because students can file an appeal. About half the students who file appeals eventually prevail, Ms. Bell said.

Scott Weinberg, the chairman of the University Council executive committee, stands behind the two-strikes-and-you're-out policy, and said tweaking the procedure might be giving students too much leeway.

"I'm not saying it's too easy, and I don't want to say we're becoming too forgiving, but it might be overdoing the flexibility angle," he said.

Nearly 200 cases of academic dishonesty, including instances of lying, plagiarism and unauthorized assistance, were reported at UGA in 2002-03.

The executive committee will consider the policy change at its meeting next month; if approved, the recommendation heads to the full council and then to UGA President Michael Adams, who has the final say on school policies.