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A call for a clear Honor Code

| Friday, October 3, 2014

The best way to balance academics with athletics can be a vexing question for Notre Dame.

When the University announced that four (later five) football players were being withheld from the team due to an investigation into suspected academic dishonesty, University President Fr. John Jenkins emphasized in his press conference that the investigation was an academic issue, not an athletics issue.

“This is not an athletic process, it is an academic process – [the players] will be judged as students first,” Jenkins said Aug. 15.

While the players may be judged under Notre Dame’s Academic Code of Honor as students first, other circumstances suggest their case is not unfolding in the same way as non-athlete’s case would.

The withheld players’ names have now been publicly known for nearly 50 days. Their participation in their main extra-curricular activity, a sport by which some of them may one day earn millions for playing, has been limited to a workout at the football complex or a dinner with teammates. Even though the investigation began in late July, they are undergoing their hearings in front of Honor Code committees only this week.

This led to some players reporting feelings of alienation and a sort of limbo where the players, tainted by allegations of misconduct, are not quite welcomed as students, nor are they allowed to be full members of their team.

It is disappointing for us to see that our fellow students have already undergone significant punishment for charges of misconduct that have yet to be fully examined or proved. But as students, it is even more disappointing to see that although this situation provides the community with a perfect opportunity to discuss and explain the  Honor Code process, it instead remains deeply shrouded in secrecy.

The one constant since the investigation was announced has been that no one really knows much about the proceedings. Sure, head football coach Brian Kelly addresses it every week in his press conferences, and Jenkins made reference to it in his address to the University’s faculty last month.

But we have about as much insight into the Honor Code process as we did before the players were withheld, and our efforts to learn more about it have proved largely fruitless.

We’ve been directed to a webpage listing the members of the University Code of Honor Committee, which has not been updated for this academic year. We’ve looked at a Code of Honor Handbook that dates back to 2011 and may no longer be in use. Requests to learn more about the Honor Code process have been denied, despite a clause in Handbook that states, “Each member of the committee may be approached for consultation or advice about the Code of Honor by any member of the Notre Dame community.” Hugh Page, associate provost, dean of the First Year of Studies and Honor Code Committee co-chair, declined to comment on requests for an updated committee roster or for clarification of the text of the Code.

The Honor Code itself is one way in which the University upholds its values. The University could use this opportunity to show how the Honor Code does its job, but it instead seems intent on keeping everything except the players’ identities under close wraps.

And that, to us, raises another academic issue — a lack of transparency on a campus that should be open to creating dialogue. The players themselves seem to not know how the hearings process works. And we, their peers, have no way to know if the process is operating along the parameters the Honor Code outlines. We understand why certain specific details on the case should be kept confidential to protect those involved – but we also think that total opacity on any question involving the Honor Code creates an unhealthy, unproductive climate for students.

Harkening back to Jenkins’ assertion that this is an academic process, these five players are students first. An investigation into potential Honor Code violations could involve any of us someday, as witnesses, classmates, accusers or accused – just as it happened to them.

This is a situation that has the potential to impact every member of the student body, and this is an opportunity for students to learn more about their own Honor Code process.

This is a chance for us to engage in productive dialogue about a matter that affects everyone on campus –  not for concerned students to be left in the dark by authorities whose duty it is to provide answers.

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  • Anonymous

    How long do other honor code processes take? If 2 to 3 months is normal then this one isn’t different in that way. Additionally, I thought the players were being held out of football not because of the honor code but because of possible ncaa ramifications if they were not eligible in earlier games.

    • LucasCorso

      I don’t think anyone knows for sure all the considerations in play. It wouldn’t surprise me if withholding players was partially a prophylactic measure regarding the NCAA.

  • 2xEIC

    If 2-3 months is “normal” then the system is broken. The process should be much faster — either throw the guilty out of school or get on with life. This pergatory is idioctic — athlete or non-athlete should have to put up with this. And as usual, the actions of the administration prove they don’t care about students at all. A process which can throw a student out of school has a website that hasn’t been updated in a year, a handbook that is three years old and representatives who refuse to answer even basic questions about the process and documents used. The fact that Hugh Page won’t even clarify basic questions about the process and committee members is awful. Notre Dame administrators don’t care a thing about students. Students are just tuition-generating entities who have to be tolerated until they become donation-generating entities. The haughtiness and arrogance of Notre Dame administrators would be astounding, except it’s been happening for decades so its just normal now.

    • LucasCorso

      As a fan and alum, I am frustrated by how long the process is taking to fully play out. But without knowing the scope of the investigation, I can’t say whether it is too slow or not.

      • 2xEIC

        If this investigation is as well designed as the website, handbook and ability to follow their own policies about transparency, I think it’s safe to conclude that it’s not very efficient.

      • LaughingTulkas

        Why should the scope of the investigation be larger because it involves football players? Would a normal student being accused of something involved a giant email probe? That the scope of this issue is so large seems to imply that that they are indeed being treated differently than a normal student, probably because the administration is concerned about the perception by outside parties, not because it’s in the best interests of those involved in the investigation.

        • Anonymous

          The scope isn’t larger because they are football players. The scope is larger because of what they are accused of, namely, cheating in a large number of classes spread out over several years. Typical cases involve accusations of cheating in a single class. That’s what’s different about this case.

    • Jim

      Totally agree. This is a joke.

  • Darth__Vader

    2-3 months isn’t normal, at least not by historical standards. I ran afoul of the Honor Code back in the 90s for a minor transgression (simply got an F on the assignment as punishment), and the entire process was over and done in about 10 days.

    • LinuxIsForWinners

      how is what one person got an F on an assignment even comparable to this situation?

      • Irishii

        Darth was given an F as punishment to his unnamed violation of the honor code. It could be very comparable – plagiarism, cheating, etc. who knows. His point is his experience was 10 days is all it took to get it settled and receive his punishment.

        I would agree though as this is too long. What I find interesting is the student / athlete aspect of this. They are not allowed to be athletes, but still allowed to be students even though its an academic issue and not an athletic issue. As a ND fan I thought this would have been settled the first couple weeks of school.

        • LucasCorso

          Ten days for a single minor transgression. That in no way informs the current situation. Just doesn’t.

  • Richard

    doesn’t matter if 2-3 months is normal, it’s too long. at a minimum the University should have made known a schedule and then kept to it. you can’t be demanding of attention to details from the students and then ignore details as a University.

  • Matthew Baisley

    Great article, nice work.

  • LucasCorso

    Without knowing the scope of the investigation, there is no way to determine whether the time span has been too long. I suspect the dust will settle in the not-to-distant future, and maybe some legitimate conclusions about the process will be possible.

  • Nick

    Does the University refund the tuition and room & board for lame duck semesters during their lengthy investigations? They take their sweet time but I guarantee they sent the bills on time.

  • TE Ernest

    Perhaps, ND administrators should stop disingenuously boasting about “98%” high grad rates when ND has a history of jocks getting caught cheating and, as bad on moral grounds, equally dishonest non athlete students writing their term papers for them! The Dunbar Scandal that gave ND eternal , major cheating violator status when SCORES of ND players took millions of dollars in cash/ trips to Vegas & elsewhere/ jewelry/ other illegal material benefits was nOT THE ONLY major violation was hit with then: it was also sanctioned for – youi guessed it- academic fraud when dishonest ND students wrote equally dishonest football jock’s /jocks’ term papers! THAT scandal that tarnished ND irreparably was not that long ago folks! I agree that the Honor Code at ND is a joke and needs to be less clandestine but it truly needs to be enforced and TOUGHENED up . How many of us have spoken to fellow students and yes ND alumni who have admitted how much they resent the fact that ND football jocks are herrded into easy A ND gut courses and majors like ND (brand of easy) “Marketing” and , just as embarrassingly :” Film/&TV studies! What good are alleged “(8% ” nD grad rates when we are a laughingstock due to such easy majors and so many, many ND football players and yes ex-football players graduating from ND with a worthless degree but no actual education?Dont bother answering , its rhetorical. Football players must no longer be coddled and pampered and covered up for here. It got ND a deserved societal/media inflicted black eye in the wake of a ND male jock who , it was asserted committed a rape/ sexual battery vs a SMC coed recently only to have one of his MALE ND Buddies from his dorm room at ND yet try to pressure said Coed from going further with her criminal complaint by threatening her! That the jock was not expelled or at least kicked off the team is shocking; appalling! That his sleazy ND student pal did not get expelled is not only an INSULT to the safety of ALL female students at ND , but a mockery of ND’s so called student honor code. THAT male student who threatened her was NOT the Coed’s mere accusation, it was a reality proven TRUTH! He remained a student ; she tragically committed suicide as we all know and ND’s employee the Campus police foot-dragged so badly that ND administrative cover up exposed by the media thank goodness (incl. Chicago Tribune ) resulted in a new NATIONAL Rule which some colleges refer derisively or otherwise as “The Nd Rule” which now FORBIDS ND like ways of allegedly investigating asserted sex crimes! THAT is NOT how ND should be looked at; our image is “tarnished ” enough! Its time for ND to treat ALL students EQUALLY and stop pampering the football players. “Word has It'(*no state secret anymore) the NCAA is SEPARATELY delving into this possible “mass” academic cheating scandal by ND players ‘and “other’ infractions that some within and outside the school have brought to light( i.e, the NCAA’s attention from which, they are reportedly investigating!). The LAST thing Notre Dame needs is yet another scandal. This current scandal requires ND to be honest and thorough because if ND is perceived to be sweeping this under the rug the nCAA is sure to come down hard because of ND’s history of scandals and lack of institutional control or effective punishment measures. Do not blame the media, society, the NCAA, the Big Ten refs, the cIA, or Ms. O’Leary’s cow for this latest debacle, BLAME the ND administration, By all means DO tighten up the Honor Code . Strengthen it. And for goodness sake start recruiting MOORE football players with real character …our starting QB would NOT be so fortunate the first time he was caught cheating let alone multiple times (plural!!!) before ND finally , ahem ‘expelled” him. At many other schools that talented now remorseful(it appears) QB at ND would have been ACTUALLY EXPELLED as in EXPELLED! I call for ND to find an actual …acvtively recruited Blue Chip athlete that actually desires to major in ,. say, Engineering. Gasp! ND has not had such an actively recruited non walk in major in such a tough dfiscipline in…get this DECADES. Notre Shame on all if we do not learn from this latest debacle. The article overall needed to be written but “the reasons” , above, are the most salient for toughening up the Code and making the process more TRANSPARENT.

    • Jeff

      The real scandal here would be if the Notre Dame English Department had proofread this post.

    • AZKARL

      Please tell me you are not a student at my Alma Mater. Please learn how to write a coherent sentence.

    • Willy Beamin7

      Someone is really mad at the world for not blessing them with the physical gifts to be an athlete. Where did you get your information about the entire football team only majoring in two things? The real joke is ripping your institution about their degrees, thus lowering the validity of your own degree. Doesn’t seen to make sense.

      • LucasCorso

        That guy has is just on a rant. What he wrote about Dunbar, for example, was ludicrous. Kim Dunbar was the girlfriend of one of the players, whom she later married. She provided her boyfriend and a few other players with gifts. Which is perfectly within in the rules except for the fact she was later determined to qualify as a “booster.” She was determined to be a booster in a split vote by the NCAA. The reason? She joined a club that was open to the public for $25. That’s it.

    • LucasCorso

      Since most of that is false, and the rest is exaggerated, it’s pretty easy to dismiss entirely.

    • NDFan19632014

      At least ND football players can read and write.

    • mgbirish

      please try paragraphs, and spell check, thank you

  • John Bend

    This matter started as academic fraud withpossible NCAA violations. The NCAA part should take months to make sure nothing would bring about any sanctions from the NCAA. The adminsitration said it would be thorough and without regards to time or seasons. What is the big deal?
    What I wonder if any of these 5 or any of the academic casualties recently are players who were granted admission but were maqrginal or given a special ok to come to ND. It used to eb 12 players every 4 years were admitted who may not have met all of the qualifications but were allowed in ( sort of taking a risk). I heard that Kelly was given even more. So you lower the standards of the palyers coming in, this is what you get.

    • Willy Beamin7

      If you “heard” this is what happened but you don’t really know, how can you come to that conclusion that “this is what you get?”

  • all over it

    In the 60’s the Honor Code was initiated formally, but it was not well documented, nor organized.
    Two friends were accused of cheating on an exam and I was asked by one to represent him, because he was so stressed out.
    Without specifics, I can say that I believe justice was NOT served and the University was more concerned with protecting the new Honor Code than listening to the accused (both of whom took lie detector tests that were not allowed to be used).
    It seems that there has been little change.

  • John

    The length of this process is outrageous. The student body, alumni, and fans should boycott the first quarter of the North Carolina game to protest the process. Any student may be involved in the future. The students should rally to change the process and support their classmates. Let NBC show an empty stadium and maybe the academicians will find out what pays their salary. This process has been a great disservice to these students.

  • patrick moran

    Justice delayed is justice denied.

  • Dubz

    Maybe the administration should investigate the business school as a whole rather than the football team…

  • C-Breezy

    What a circle jerk. I can tell you the number of times in my professional life that I’ve been asked to complete a project using only what I’d managed to learn before the project began: never. Kudos to anyone who uses any and every resource available to them to accomplish what’s expected of them because that is how the world works. Sorry I’m not sorry that your $20 worth of adderall and the all-nighter you pulled studying for your exam didn’t land you a better grade.