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Annual reports on student misconduct released

Official statistics cannot adequately represent the extent to which sexual assault and academic dishonesty occur

October 13, 2017

ACADEMIC HONOR CODE & SOCIAL CODE

The 2016-2017 Annual Report from the Judicial Board (J-Board) revealed 16 Academic Honor Code violations and one Social Code violation. This year, the largest case of collaboration involved three students, a significant decrease from the 2015-2016 year report when 11 cases were brought before the J-Board from a single course in the Department of Computer Science.

As the Orient reported in April, this case of collaboration between three students also originated in the computer science department.

In this case, each student was charged with “giving, receiving or using unauthorized assistance” and “submission of work not a student’s own original effort.” According to the report, “all three students were intentionally dishonest with the intent to deceive during the hearing,” and communicated with each other via social media and text messages to fabricate their statements.

The Board recommended an F in the course and indefinite dismissal for three semesters with no guarantee of readmission. Former Senior Associate Dean for Student Affairs Dean Kim Pacelli increased that sanction to four semesters for one of the students.

The most frequent violation of the Academic Honor Code was “inadequate citation of sources,” with twice as many violations as seen in the 2015-2016 report. An F in the course combined with a one-semester suspension was the most common punishment recommended by the Board.

While 18 cases of academic dishonesty were referred to the J-Board, that number cannot adequately represent the amount of dishonesty that may occur in a given year at the College.

Faculty members are under no obligation to report suspected violations of the Academic Honor Code to the Dean’s Office and have the right to resolve situations of academic dishonesty independently of the formal disciplinary process.

Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster said that faculty are strongly encouraged to seek counsel from the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs or Advisor to the Judicial Board Kate O’Grady before handling matters on their own.

“From our office’s point of view, I believe that cases of suspected academic dishonesty are best handled by the board … That said, faculty are under no obligation to bring cases forward. That’s an expectation, but it’s not an obligation,” Foster said.

O’Grady, who is also dean of community standards, echoed Foster.

“I would encourage a faculty member to always pick up the phone and talk to me. Just by virtue of the fact that we have a conversation doesn’t necessarily lead to a J-Board case,” she said.

Foster stressed that a professor’s decision not to refer allegations to the Board jeopardizes the College’s ability to treat students fairly.

“[Say] a faculty member decides without consultation with us to handle a matter themselves within the class, [and] later in the same class a faculty member takes a case and brings it forward to us and we discover through the process of the hearing or in advance of the hearing that the faculty member has dealt with a previous case him or herself—that is wildly problematic,“ said Foster.

Faculty members receive training during new faculty orientation on handling academic dishonesty and also receive guidance in the faculty handbook. Ultimately, the decision to refer a case rests in their hands.

This year the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs handled five cases administratively. Only under “special and unusual circumstances” may the Dean’s Office choose to handle a case internally. However the referral of the case must originate with a faculty member. In these circumstances, rather the J-Board hearing the case, a student is given the opportunity to admit to the charge and accept any penalties directly from a dean.

The College’s Student Disciplinary Process policy does not indicate what constitutes special circumstances, but simply states “the Dean of Students may act administratively in appropriate cases without a Judicial Board hearing.”

As an example, Foster cited a situation where a professor discovered a case of academic dishonesty in late May when grading final papers. Because students had already returned home, convening the J-Board would have been difficult.

“In the old days we used to take a case like that and say we won’t hear it until the Board reconvenes in the fall semester, right before classes resume,” said Foster. “And it was just too hard and unfair to the students involved to say you have to live with that all summer, of not knowing how this case is going to be resolved.”

However, in this special and unusual circumstance, a student will always be given the choice to have their case heard through a judicial board hearing instead of internally.

SEXUAL ASSAULT

The Student Sexual Misconduct Board heard four complaints of “non-consensual sexual intercourse” in the 2016-2017 year. However, this number includes only cases formally reported to the Title IX coordinator.

Of these cases, only one student was sanctioned for the charge. One respondent—the student alleged to have committed the charge—resigned from the College in the middle of the investigation. The remaining cases were resolved through an informal resolution or the complaint was withdrawn.

The Board consists of one faculty member and one student member of the J-Board who is specially trained by Director of Gender Violence Prevention and Education and Title IX and Compliance  Benje Douglas in the sexual misconduct policy and process.

As per Bowdoin’s Sexual Misconduct Policy, cases reported to the Title IX coordinator are referred to an independent investigator who prepares a preliminary report to be read by the Student sexual misconduct board.

In the last week of September, in accordance with the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act of 1998, the College released its Annual Security Report on Campus Crime, Fire, Alcohol and Illegal Drugs, which stated that 12 rapes were reported during the 2016 year. Unlike the complaints brought before the Student Sexual Misconduct Board, this number also includes anonymous reports.

Last year’s Bowdoin Experiences and Attitudes about Relationships and Sex (B.E.A.R.S) survey stated that only 11 percent of victims officially reported sexual assault. The 12 rapes listed in the Clery report only represent a very small proportion of victims of sexual assault at Bowdoin.

According to Director of Safety and Security Randy Nichols, the Clery statistic is compiled through reports made to the Office of Safety and Security, local, county and state law enforcement, the Title IX coordinators, and campus security authorities.

Campus security authorities include, among others, staff in Residential Life, Student Activities, Student Affairs, the Health Center and Athletics. Individuals in these departments are mandated reporters of sexual assault.

Reports made to religious counselors, professional counselors and others not designated as mandated reporters are not included in the Clery crime statistics.

“These positions are exempt from disclosing reported offenses when functioning within the scope of their professional roles, in order to protect the counselor-client relationship,” said Nichols in an email to the Orient.

“Benje Douglas and I meet several times prior to the publication of our Clery campus crime statistics to ensure that our sexual assault reporting is precise.”

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