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Notre Dame policies compare to those of other universities

| Friday, October 3, 2014

The academic dishonesty allegations announced Aug. 15 involving four (later five) Notre Dame football players sparked interest in University’s Honor Code investigation process.

Notre Dame’s Undergraduate Student Academic Code of Honor Handbook is available on the University website. The policies outlined in the Code partially overlap with those in place at several of Notre Dame’s peer universities, but side-by-side comparisons reveal some significant differences.

University Code of Honor Committee co-chair Hugh Page declined to comment on any aspect of the matter. Page is also the vice president and associate provost for undergraduate affairs and dean of the First Year of Studies.

The range of acceptable penalties vary from school to school, and Notre Dame’s Honor Code appears more lenient than the Honor Code at the University of Virginia.

For example, the Virginia Honor Committee has the power to “exclude permanently from student status University students found to have committed honor violations.” This seems to suggest that students could be dismissed in response to a first-time offense.

Notre Dame’s Honor Code offers several alternatives – it differentiates between major, minor and flagrant offenses, and only under the flagrant offense category does it mention the prospect of dismissal. Lesser violations are typically penalized with zero credit given for the dishonest work or an “F” grade for the entire course, according to the Code. However, “a second violation of the Academic Code of Honor will normally result in dismissal from the University.”

At Virginia, the Honor System is entirely student-run, according to its website. Student representatives are elected to sit on the Honor Committee, while student support officers investigate cases, provide advice to accused students and serve as advocates during the trial. Additionally, students serve as randomly selected jurors for Honor Code hearings when requested, which “ensures that a decision reflects the views of the current student body.”

Notre Dame has multiple Honesty Committees at different levels—the University-wide group co-chaired by Page that has six faculty members and six students, and additional standing committees within each College or department. The Code stipulates that “In all Honesty Committees, students must constitute the majority of members.”

The Code states that “In order for the Academic Code of Honor to function, both students and faculty must know the membership of the Honesty Committee to whom they can report instances of alleged academic dishonesty.” The University Committee roster currently posted on the Code of Honor website lists students who have graduated, and Committee co-chair Hugh Page declined to comment on whether it has been updated. The Code states that the Office of the Provost maintains the current committee membership roster.

Notre Dame’s football team takes on Stanford University this weekend – still without the five players – and a head-to-head comparison of the two Universities’ Honor Codes suggests that Stanford’s code comes with more stringent sanctions for the first offense, but more lenient penalties for multiple violations.

For example, Stanford’s code states that “The standard penalty for a first offense includes a one-quarter suspension from the University and 40 hours of community service.” Additionally, most faculty members issue a “no pass” or “no credit” for the course in question. For additional violations, such as cheating more than once in the same course, the standard penalty is a three-quarter suspension and 40 or more hours of community service, according to the Code available online.

Like Notre Dame’s Honor Committees, Stanford’s Board on Judicial Affairs and individual Judicial Panels are comprised of both students and faculty members.

The University Code of Honor Committee is responsible for proposing periodic revisions to the Code to Notre Dame’s Academic Council, chaired by University President Fr. John Jenkins. The Code document available on the University website was most recently updated in 2011.

At Stanford, additions or modification to the bylaws of the Code can be overruled by the Undergraduate Senate, the Graduate Student Council, the Senate of the Academic Council, the Chair of the Senate of the Academic Council or the University President.

None of the Codes offer a precise timeline for the investigation and hearing process.

The 2014 U.S. News and World Report Best Universities ranking lists Stanford in a tie for No. 4 with Columbia University and the University of Chicago. Notre Dame is tied with Brown University and Vanderbilt University at No. 16, and Virginia is tied with the University of California-Los Angeles for No. 23.

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About Ann Marie Jakubowski

Senior News Writer, formerly Editor-in-Chief. English and Spanish double major, minor in journalism, ethics and democracy. Grand Rapids, Mich., native. Notre Dame Class of 2015.

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