Executive Committee Minutes - January 26, 2005




Present:          Alexander, Bolin, Bradford, Fech, Flowers, Hoffman, Peterson, Shea, Signal, Stock


Absent:           Beck, Scholz


Date:               Wednesday, January 26, 2005


Location:        Academic Senate Office, 420 University Terrace


Note:   These are not verbatim minutes.  They are a summary of the discussions at the Executive Committee meeting as corrected by those participating.


1.0       Call to Order

            Peterson called the meeting to order at 3:04 p.m.


2.0       Dr. Hecker, Director, Student Judicial Affairs:  Academic Dishonesty

Peterson noted that Hecker indicated at the December Senate meeting that there has been an increase in the number of reported academic dishonesty incidents.  Peterson asked Hecker what the increase may be attributed to.  Hecker stated that his concerns on academic dishonesty are threefold.  First, he reported that there has been a marked increase in the number of incidents reported but he does not know if this can be attributed to more incidents being reported or an increase in the amount of incidents that have occurred.  Secondly, he pointed out that there is a definite lack of consistency between and among departments in how academic dishonesty is treated.  Third, there is a problem with students understanding the clear definition of what is considered academic dishonesty. 


Hecker gave an example of a student who was scheduled to graduate but failed a class in his/her minor because of plagiarism and consequently did not graduate when originally scheduled.  The student complained that he/she had written reports in the same way throughout his/her college career and this was the first time he/she was told that it was plagiarism. 


Hecker stated that he is not clear on how to resolve the problem.  He asked how the campus can get consistency in dealing with academic dishonesty.  He suggested a possible system is to have an honor code although this is not common.  Flowers pointed out that some universities do have an honor code.  Hecker reported that there are not many of them.  Bradford asked if the honor system meant students have non proctored exams.  Hecker stated that this is correct but students would have to sign in to take exams.  Bradford reported that the Law College has non proctored exams but he questioned how well this works. 


Peterson asked if the perception of the Judicial Affairs office is that there are different kinds of academic dishonesty.  Hecker reported that the top offense is plagiarism followed by cheating on exams.  Fech asked if students still cheat by looking at another person’s exam.  Hecker stated that this is a small part of cheating now.  He noted that technology has created new ways of cheating, such as the use of PDA’s for instant text messaging. 


Bolin pointed out that if there is a way to cheat, some students will do it.  She questioned what kind of educational message students are getting when there are little or no penalties involved.  Bradford stated that cheating on exams should result in expulsion.  He pointed out that some students do not understand what defines plagiarism.  He noted that some professors are defining plagiarism in their class.  He stated that some of the freshman writing classes should explain plagiarism. 


Peterson stated that he has been seeing plagiarism over the years he has been teaching and he has not seen any significant increases in the number of times it is committed.  He pointed out that it can be difficult for an instructor to accuse a student of plagiarism because the instructor needs to be able to back up this claim.  He stated that it can take too much of a faculty member’s time to track down the plagiarized work even though the instructor knows by the writing style that the student did not write the section in question.  Flowers noted that it can be hard to track down the information but some professors are good at it.  He stated that there is some dedicated software that will help in locating plagiarized work.  Bolin stated that papers can be sent to turnitin.com and they will run a check to see if any of it is plagiarized.  She pointed out that she does not know if the University would need a site license in order for all faculty members to use it. 


Alexander stated that plagiarism not only happens with the students.  He noted that he has seen some faculty proposals where sections are plagiarized.  Peterson stated that a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education found that some faculty members were guilty of plagiarism.  He noted that freshmen and sophomore students need to be educated on what constitutes plagiarism. 


Stock stated that in the English department instructors provide statements on plagiarism but he does not know to what extent.  He pointed out that one way individual instructors can minimize plagiarism is by assigning both in class and out of class writing assignments. 


Peterson stated that he wondered if the number of reported incidents of academic dishonesty is just the tip of the iceberg.  He noted that he typically does not report a student but tries to handle the matter on his own.  Flowers pointed out that if an instructor lowers a grade due to a transgression he/she is required to file a report with the department office and Judicial Affairs.  Fech stated that instructors should be required to report an incident if a student has had multiple offensives. 


Signal stated that there are other forms of academic dishonesty besides cheating and plagiarism.  She noted that students who are required to participate in group projects but who continually fabricate excuses for not participating are guilty of academic dishonesty.  She stated that the message needs to be sent that academic dishonesty is about being dishonest in any academic endeavor.


Bradford asked if there are incidents of students buying term papers.  Hecker stated that he has not heard of this happening on campus although it would be hard to detect.  Peterson noted that his assignments are very course specific and it would be difficulty for someone outside of the class to write a paper. 


Peterson stated that there should be workshops for faculty members on how to design tests, give assignments and detect academic dishonesty. 


Alexander suggested that the University should be able to provide instructors with a picture of the student.  He pointed out that in large classes students can come in and take an exam for another student without the professor being able to verify that it is the actual student registered for the class.  He noted that more faculty members are using Blackboard to post class notes and some students are not always in class so it is hard to identify some of them.  Flowers stated that there are developments in technologically advanced testing facilities, such as the currently available testing room in Burnett Hall for use by A & S courses. 


Hecker stated that what instructors require from students working in groups can vary so greatly that it is difficult for students to know what to expect from class to class.  He noted that students in a lab class had to work as a group and had similar answers to defining terms but the instructor accused them of cheating because they gave similar answers. 


Hecker stated that some institutions, like Penn State, have tried to adopt a university approach to dealing with academic dishonesty.  He stated that Penn State has provided tools for the faculty such as suggested statements on academic dishonesty and plagiarism on the syllabus and other tools that will assist with papers.  He stated that he would like to work together with the Senate to see if a task force can be created to look at the issue of academic dishonesty.  He stated that the task force could review how other universities deal with academic dishonesty.  He noted that he met with the Senior Administrative team and with the Deans and everyone wants a solution to the problem.  Peterson stated that the Executive Committee can push the administration to form a task force to look into the issue.  He suggested that there be student members on the task force as well. 


Fech noted that Beck at one time suggested that students need to be given information on what constitutes academic dishonesty in some freshmen level classes.  He stated that it is important that the message gets out to incoming freshmen.  


Shea stated that there needs to be discussion on the consequences that need to be associated with academic dishonesty.  He pointed out that there is a need for strong consequences.  Bradford noted that he was surprised to hear that students are just put on probation for the first offense of cheating.  He stated that students should be expelled for this violation.  Hecker noted that military institutions are very good at enforcing that rule. 


Signal stated that something that needs to be considered is the effect verifying information will put on a professor’s time.  She pointed out that having to verify each paper for plagiarism could put a real burden on an instructor.  She stated that she wants to focus her energy on those students who want to be in class and want to learn.  Peterson noted that the ethical component of the issue is that the cost of fixing the problem may be greater than the reward.


Hecker stated that he explains academic dishonesty to students by comparing it to counterfeiting money.  He stated that it is a matter of trust based on authenticities.  Stock noted that instructors want students to adapt ideas that they learn.  Not steal them.  Peterson stated that he believes that most students do not consciously set out to deceive the instructor when they plagiarize but often they just don’t know or are too lazy to do the work.  Hecker stated that many students are busy with going to school and working and often do not leave adequate time for their studies.  Signal asked if the freshmen experience includes training for students on time management.  She stated that the primary culprit with academic dishonesty is students taking on too many things until it is too late. 


Peterson stated that the Executive Committee can also work with SVCAA Couture to see if getting information on academic dishonesty to students can be done through the general education program since it is scheduled to be reviewed.  He noted that it should be a specific goal of the program to teach students about academic dishonesty.  Flowers noted that efforts should be made to get the information to faculty members as well so that the rules on academic dishonesty are applied more consistently.  Hecker stated that it would help if instructors gave compelling and clear statements on the expectations they have on academic dishonesty. 


Hecker stated that he will ask the Senior Administrative team if pictures of students can be associated with class rosters.  Bradford noted that the N card has a student’s picture on it and that should be stored somewhere. 


Peterson stated that the Committee will discuss the issue with SVCAA Couture when they meet with her on February 16th.


3.0       Announcements

            No announcements were made.


4.0       Approval of 1/19/05 Minutes

Flowers moved and Alexander seconded approval of the minutes as amended.  Motion approved. 




5.0       Unfinished Business

            5.1       Conflict of Interest Motion

Peterson noted that Beck sent a draft resolution to the Committee on expressing concerns to Varner Hall regarding the Conflict of Interest policy.  Alexander stated that he believed that the UNL committee that reviewed the document would offer suggestions on it for revisions.  He noted that the committee met for only 40 minutes and no consensus was formed.  He stated that the committee members were then instructed to individually send their concerns into the chair and she would compile and send them forward as the concerns of the campus.  He noted that he was glad to hear that the Chancellor was not in support of the document. 


Bradford asked if the Chancellor has asked if the campuses can have more time to respond on the document.  Peterson noted that he did not ask the Chancellor for this.  He pointed out that he did receive an email message from Associate Vice Chancellor Crockett stating that the deadline for responding on the document has been moved up. 


Shea stated that having the deadline for responses moved up makes him concerned that Varner Hall is moving quickly on the document.  He stated that the Committee should respond quickly to President Milliken about its concerns.  Alexander stated that the federal government is requiring all institutions that receive federal funding to have a conflict of interest policy in place.  He noted that this is pressuring the University to put a policy in place.


Peterson asked if the Committee wanted to introduce the resolution to the Senate at the February 1st meeting as an emergency motion.  The Committee agreed and worked on revising the resolution.  


Bradford and Flowers stated that an email message should still be sent to President Milliken even before the Senate meeting to make sure that the concerns of the faculty are heard.


5.2       Procedures for Voting on Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics Proposal

Peterson noted that the Committee will be meeting with Professors Logan-Peters and Shoemaker from the Intercollegiate Athletics Committee on February 2nd.  The Committee agreed that Peterson’s email message on the COIA academic integrity document should be sent to the Senators.


5.3       Review of Executive Committee Goals

The Committee continued reviewing its goals for the 2004-2005 academic year.


6.0       New Business

6.1       Discussion of Chancellor’s Policy Memo on Legal Representation

Shea stated that he appreciated the Chancellor bringing this matter to the attention of Committee before it was released.


Alexander questioned whether this policy opens the door for athletics to get all legal cases covered for athletes.  Bradford stated that the policy only applies to circumstances that occur during a university sponsored event and would not pertain to violations which occur at any other time.  He noted that as a faculty member he is glad to see such a policy because it covers faculty members as well.  Hoffman stated that he thought it was a good idea.  He noted that some professors carry their own professional liability insurance to cover them in case a situation arises when they are working for the University that could result in legal action. 


Peterson stated that he would correspond with the Chancellor to tell him that the Committee supports the policy and appreciates him for bringing it to the attention of the Committee.


6.2       Preparations for February 1st Senate Meeting

The Committee agreed that there were too many items to attend to during the February Senate meeting for there to be an open forum discussion.


6.3       Message from Deb Thomas

Peterson reported that he received a message from Deb Thomas, Director of Special Projects and Vice President for External Affairs, stating that she would be willing to meet with faculty and staff to provide legislative updates and to discuss legislative issues.  The Committee agreed to schedule her for an upcoming meeting.


The meeting was adjourned at 5:00 pm. The next meeting of the Executive Committee will be on Wednesday, February 2nd at 3:00 pm.  The meeting will be held in the Academic Senate Office, 420 University Terrace.  The minutes are respectfully submitted by Karen Griffin, Coordinator and Pat Shea, Secretary.