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Vice chancellor responds to academic integrity report
Vice chancellor responds to academic integrity reportMay 08, 2007SU News ServicesSUnews@syr.edu
Below, in a memo to the University community, Vice Chancellor and Provost Eric F. Spina offers his response to recommendations of the Vice Chancellor and Provost’s Committee on Academic Integrity (VPCAI).
The committee was convened in November 2004 to assess the current state of academic integrity at Syracuse University and to develop recommendations addressing academic integrity expectations for faculty, students, staff and administrators, as well as procedures for responding to alleged violations of those expectations.
The VPCAI surveyed undergraduate and graduate students, teaching assistants and faculty members on the subject of academic integrity; reviewed the policies of SU’s schools and colleges and those of peer institutions; prepared research reports, as well as a report of findings and recommendations; and sought community feedback through public forums, presentations to various groups, and an online comment form.
Detailed information on the VPCAI’s work is available at MySlice: https://myslice.syr.edu.
A listing of committee members is available at http://provost.syr.edu/integrity_committee.asp.
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TO: Members of the University Community FROM: Eric F. Spina, Vice Chancellor and ProvostRE: Response to the Vice Chancellor & Provost’s Committee on Academic Integrity Final ReportDATE: May 7, 2007
This response to the final report of the Vice Chancellor & Provost’s Committee on Academic Integrity (VPCAI) has been informed by a number of discussions that have occurred since the draft VPCAI final report was issued, including meetings with the VPCAI and the Senate Committee on Academic Affairs, an Open Forum, and the presentation and discussion within the full University Senate. Efforts on Recommendation #2 have already begun; this memo will be re-issued in the fall to the Senate Agenda Committee, the Student Association, and the Graduate Student Organization so that these organizations can make progress on Recommendation #1.
I express my thanks and gratitude to the Committee members and their chair, Prof. Elet Callahan, for their extremely dedicated service to the University and the ideals of academic integrity. As the Committee completes its work, the members should be proud of the substantial and long-lasting impact that they will have on the academic environment at Syracuse University.
You will recall that the Committee, originally created in fall 2004 by Vice Chancellor and Provost Deborah Freund, was charged “to conduct research and develop recommendations to facilitate upholding the highest ideals of academic integrity” at the University. You also will recall that the Committee’s recommendations regarding an institution-wide student academic integrity policy were approved in spring 2006 and the policy put into effect as of 1 July 2006, in part through the creation of an Academic Integrity Office. This final report focused on expectations for the faculty, instructors, administrators, and staff.
The Committee has done important work in identifying existing policies at Syracuse University that govern ethics and academic integrity, outlining their scope, and mapping their relationships to each other. The Committee also identified concerns within the University community about the effectiveness and fairness of the existing processes. These concerns and the sense of many senior administrators that our policies, processes, and overall system can benefit from further examination and review compel us to act on the report’s recommendations. The integrity of our environment and processes and the proper treatment of faculty, staff, and students are imperatives and merit this deeper review and whatever improvements can be made. Bearing also in mind the need to ensure that policies for the faculty, instructors, administration, and staff are consistent with the student-oriented academic policy adopted last year, I propose to implement the recommendations as outlined below.
Recommendation 1: The University should adopt a statement emphasizing its broad commitment to integrity, as a means of promoting an environment in which academic integrity is understood to be a key institutional priority. Such a statement must clearly communicate that all members of the University community are accountable for academic integrity. Accordingly, we recommend adoption of the following statement:
Every faculty member, instructor, administrator, staff member, and student is responsible for the integrity of the Syracuse University community. Our roles within the University differ, but we share the obligation to exercise honesty, trustworthiness, fairness, and respect for one another in all endeavors. Results obtained dishonestly are hollow. Failure to live up to our ideals of integrity undermines the objectives of our academic community: learning, intellectual exploration, teaching, research, creative accomplishment, leadership, engaged citizenship, and personal development. We rely on each other to act accordingly, and we are all accountable for upholding these values.
I agree that a clear statement on integrity and ethics, broadly accepted by the University community and approved by the faculty, staff, students, and administration is an important step in emphasizing our mutual commitment to academic integrity and our acceptance of personal and communal responsibility. Through transmittal of this memorandum to the Senate Agenda Committee, The Graduate Student Organization, and the Student Association, I ask those bodies to review the statement developed by the VPCAI and to adopt it.
Recommendation 2: The Vice Chancellor & Provost should initiate an external, independent, and transparent process to assess each of the procedures referred to in Appendix B, and any other procedures used to address academic integrity concerns, as soon as possible and on a regular basis thereafter, to ensure that each is accessible, effective, and efficient. Such procedures should ensure that fundamental fairness is provided to persons who are alleged to have violated academic integrity expectations and also protect the interests of persons bringing academic integrity concerns forward. At minimum, fundamental fairness includes written notice of the academic integrity violation that is alleged to have occurred, an opportunity to respond to the allegation, access to impartial review of any decision, and timely resolution of the matter. Persons who have and persons who have not participated in implementing the procedure should be consulted in the assessment process. The results of the assessment should be broadly disseminated.
With the assistance of administrators in the Office of Academic Affairs and members of the VPCAI Committee, I have identified a number of highly qualified individuals from universities with highly regarded academic integrity processes and procedures who are excellent candidates to provide a review of our processes and procedures. I commit to forming a team of at least three of these individuals to visit Syracuse University no later than early in Fall 2007 to: (a) review our existing avenues for addressing academic integrity and concerns (other than those now covered by the academic integrity policy adopted last year) and identify any gaps or unmet needs; (b) evaluate the extent to which those avenues are accessible, effective, efficient, and fundamentally fair. These consultants will meet with a broad sample of the University community so that they understand well our current situation and are able to make recommendations on whether and how to make modifications. The report of the review team will be broadly disseminated and appropriate input sought if new policies are developed (i.e., working with the Senate) and/or new processes developed.
Recommendation 3: The University should establish an independent, neutral, impartial, and confidential process to receive, investigate, and facilitate resolution of concerns, including reports of unethical conduct, raised by members of the University community. A biannual report on concerns presented through this process, with personally identifiable information removed, should be compiled and broadly disseminated.
The outcome of the external review process identified in my response to Recommendation #2 will dictate what specific steps are taken in response to this recommendation, as the process by which reports of unethical conduct are received, investigated, and facilitated will obviously be a focus of the review and the follow-up response from this office. I believe it is premature to take any other specific action until that review is completed. In addition, the recent report from the Special Task Force on Sexual Harassment Policy and Procedure contains elements that are not dissimilar from those recommended here by the VPCAI. I believe it is most prudent to assimilate any action in response to Recommendation #3 with the outcomes of the pending external review and the outcomes of the Sexual Harassment review process.