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New Belmont honor code promotes student involvement in adjudication  

A Bruin does not lie, cheat, or steal and does not tolerate those acts.

That’s it.

Belmont's new 14-word honor code is short, sweet and to the point.

Gabe DeGraeve, one of two undergraduate students on the Academic Misconduct Committee, believes the new honor code allows a hands-on approach for students and how their cases are handled.

“The biggest part of this whole process and the new honor code is to promote transparency,” DeGraeve said. “The old honor code didn’t involve students in the process at all, and I think that’s the biggest difference.”

The previous honor code didn’t include a formal Academic Misconduct Committee that handled adjudications. The existence of the committee allows students to push their side of the story throughout the adjudication process.

Dr. Rebecca Adams, one of the chairpersons of the Academic Misconduct Committee, spoke on the confusion surrounding what constitutes as academic misconduct.

“What we think is really important is that we have a culture of students who understand what academic misconduct is and what would count as an honor code violation, because if students don’t understand there’s ambiguity in that, they might be more likely to commit a violation. And we don’t want that for our students,” she said.

Yet with this change, some students feel they were not adequately informed about the new honor code.

“With this new administration, they are making a lot of changes that are probably for the better. I just feel like they’re not being properly announced all the time,” said senior Tatum Brown. “They could do a better job at acknowledging why we’re changing things like the honor code, because I don’t even know why it’s being changed.”

To help students understand how this new honor code and process of adjudication through the academic misconduct committee works, chairpersons Dr. Adams and Dr. Kara Smith outlined the options available for students.

There are 3 different outcomes for students regarding honor code violations.

“If a student approaches an instructor before being accused of an honor code violation, that’s called conscientious retraction. And that can actually result in lower penalty sanctions,” said Dr. Adams.

This outcome first requires a student to have committed an honor code violation. Then, they would admit the violation to their professor before that professor confronted the student regarding suspected honor code violation. The idea is for students to hold themselves accountable.

The next two outcomes concern professors first confronting the student regarding a possible honor code violation.

“If after being accused and presented the evidence of an honor code violation, if a student at that point accepts responsibility, even that could result in a lower punishment… if a student doesn’t accept responsibility, in any case, even despite the preponderance of evidence that it occurred, that’s a little bit more severe of an outcome,” said Dr. Adams.

Even with all of these outcomes, students have the opportunity for several appeals.

“You can appeal from the professor adjudicating the case to the three-person panel, and then you can appeal beyond that throughout the entirety of the committee, and then you have another appeal beyond that which would go directly to the provost. So the number of steps of appeal allow for careful adjudication of cases,” said DeGraeve.

The three-person panel is composed of a faculty member from the accused student’s college, a faculty member from the college where misconduct was suspected, and a graduate or undergraduate student, depending on the education level of the student.

Opportunities for student involvement in adjudication of misconduct was a vital part of the creation of the new honor code. The academic misconduct committee encourages students to take full advantage of those opportunities.

“Students taking responsibility matters a lot…whether they make a mistake or not, we want them to learn from it…. It’s not a weakness to take responsibility, it’s a strength and it helps you grow as a person,” says Dr. Adams.

To see the new honor code, students can visit the Bruin Guide. This article was written by Katie Beth Cannon.

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Mar 03, 2023

Great Article! This is an interesting practice. Unfortunately, this was not the case when I was studying at law school.The only thing I remember from those days is being tested with written assignments.To deal with all this, I turned to professionals I met there quickly pulled me along in my studies.

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