At their meeting on Monday, faculty will vote on a measure that would increase the number of faculty members on the Judicial Board (J-Board) from four to five for the next two years. This measure was brought up in response to the increase in cases sent to the J-Board over the last two years.
Currently, four faculty members serve on the board and two sit in on each case. During the 2015-2016 academic year, the J-Board heard 22 academic dishonesty cases, a significant increase after it heard no more than nine cases per year over the previous five years. Due to this increase, faculty members who were not on the board but had previously served were asked to sit in on cases.
The J-Board has heard 18 cases so far this year.
“It was sort of obvious at that point to say, ‘Hey, if you have to bring more people on this committee to deal with the load, maybe you should be having extra people on the committee,’” said Rachel Connelly, Bion R. Cram professor of economics and chair of the Committee on Governance and Faculty Affairs (GFA).
The GFA runs faculty meetings, assigns faculty members to committees and handles changes to the faculty handbook.
While the upcoming faculty vote is in response to the specific issue of workload for faculty members of the J-Board, Connelly expressed broader concern about the increase in cases of plagiarism and academic dishonesty at the College. She hopes to continue faculty discussion on how academic dishonesty is explained and the nature of the J-Board process.
“Even if the [number of academic dishonesty cases] weren’t changing, even if they were just flat, we should periodically think about whether we could do better,” Connelly said.
The increase in plagiarism cases over the past two years, many of which have come from the computer science department, have prompted conversations among the faculty. At faculty meetings on March 6 and March 27, Connelly heard a wide range of opinions on ways to address academic dishonesty.
“I heard views [at the meetings] from, ‘We as faculty need to do better in teaching our students,’ compared to, ‘They need to grow up. They need to experience this. They need to pay the consequences of their actions’ and, ‘We need to support the system that creates those consequences,’” Connelly said.
Faculty members also discussed the process of the J-Board, including sanctions and structure.
The GFA introduced the motion to temporarily increase the number of faculty members on J-Board on April 3.
“The J-Board is a really interesting community-level body. It is mostly a student body, but they don’t get to make the rules. It’s not a faculty committee. [Faculty] sit on it, but they don’t make the rules. So who makes the rules and how could you affect change in those rules is really a grey area,” said Connelly.
Connelly cited punishments as one subject of discussion.
“Even if our whole J-Board system is fine, are the punishment calibrations, right? We’ve haven’t had that conversation for a long time, and I think we should be having it,” she said.
If the faculty approve the measure, the change will last two years, after which the faculty will reevaluate. The decision of who will be added to the J-Board is up to those on GFA. Every May, the GFA assigns which faculty members will sit on any particular committee.
“All we’re going to do is decide whether to put one more person on for two years,” said Connelly. “It gives us time to think more broadly and more deeply. At the same time, [we can] also see if this is going to fix itself.”
The 2017-2018 academic year will also see 16 students on the J-Board, compared to 12 this year, in order to diminish the workload for J-Board student members and increase diversity of thought.