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Graduate Honor System reports sanctions

By Susan Trulove

Spectrum Volume 21 Issue 09 - October 22, 1998

The primary function of the Honor System is to investigate alleged violations of the Honor Code, conduct Judicial Panel hearings, and render decisions regarding guilt. Over the past 1997-98 academic year, the Graduate Honor System investigated a total of eight cases involving seven students, leading to five judicial panel hearings.
In three cases, the investigative board dismissed the charges for lack of substantial evidence. In one case, the chief justice dismissed a case that was submitted one year after the alleged event. The GHS Constitution requires reporting within 10 class days, unless there are compelling extenuating circumstances. The case also lacked any supporting evidence. It should also be noted that the student submitted himself for Honor System review, an unprecedented action in the history of the Graduate Honor System.
In five cases, the judicial panel found the student guilty of the violation and imposed a penalty. One student was found guilty of two separate violations in two separate cases.
Six cases involved violations during Spring Semester 1998. Seven cases involved students in residence at the Blacksburg campus. One case was submitted by a faculty member at the Blacksburg campus involving a student taking courses off campus.
"In total, the Graduate Honor System found four graduate students guilty of Honor Code violations during the 1997-98 academic year, down from 11 during 1996-97," reported David W. Mullins, chief justice of the Graduate Honor System.
As a result, three students were placed on probation, and one student was permanently dismissed. In accordance with Article IV Section 2, each case resulting in a guilty verdict and the sanction is summarized below:
Cheating on homework assignment, probation and F in course with transcript notation; plagiarism on term pape, permanent dismissal; cheating on final exam, permanent dismissal; plagiarism on term paper, probation and zero on assignment; plagiarism on written preliminary examination, dismissed by the investigative board; cheating on take-home final problem set , probation and zero on assignment; plagiarism and academic sabotage, dismissed by the investigative board; cheating on homework, dismissed by the chief justice.
"Fortunately, our activities were not limited to hearing cases," Mullins said. "During the 1997-98 academic year, we continued our commitment to Honor System education. Last year, I identified a disturbing increase in the number of Honor System cases, and I became concerned that students (especially international students) are not aware of the Honor Code. Therefore, the Honor System personnel took every available opportunity to educate the university community on the Honor Code."
Activities included15-minute talks about the Honor Code in more than 30 different departmental orientation sessions; presentations in ethics classes, including the colleges of Business, Engineering, and Human Resources and Education; reports to the Graduate Student Assembly; memos to all department heads with a reminder for all faculty members to include an Honor System statement in the syllabus; distribution of laminated Graduate Honor System posters, which include the address of our internet information site, to all academic departments; continued coordination with the Cranwell International Center to assure that all international students receive information about the Honor Code; participation in orientation and faculty training at the Northern Virginia Center; maintenance of a comprehensive and user-friendly internet site, including information for students and faculty members, a suggested Honor System syllabus statement, detailed instructions on how to avoid Honor Code violations, and an Interactive Honor System Constitution; participation in the university and international-student orientation programs, where GHS volunteers presented 20-minute talks on "Surviving in Academia: How to Avoid an Honor System Violation."
"Through our combined efforts, we were able to speak to more than half of the graduate community, including almost every new graduate student at the university," Mullins said. "It is my hope that, through our educational efforts, the Graduate Honor System's primary function will be to uphold the Honor Code and promote academic integrity throughout the university."
Last spring, the Honor System began a concerted effort to recruit and train new personnel. One new investigator was interviewed, appointed, and trained; Mullins conducted the interviews and an extensive training program, including a supervised investigation. Through direct mailings to department heads and deans, nominations of candidates for Honor System panels were invited. Approximately 75 new members will attend training this fall.
"I would like to commend the officers and volunteers who make the Graduate Honor System work at Virginia Tech. We were fortunate to have outstanding investigators," Mullins said, naming Robert Carlsen (psychology), Rebecca Columbus (psychology), and Godfrey Gibbison (agricultural economics), who served throughout the fall and spring semesters, and Jason Bond (biology), who joined this summer. "These individuals have been prompt, courteous, and fair in their investigations and deserve a thank-you from the university community. The many graduate students and faculty members who volunteer their time for investigative board and judicial panel duty also provide an invaluable service to Virginia Tech," Mullins said.
"We were saddened at the retirement of Marge Alderman, who had become an integral part of the Honor System's daily operation, as well as a dear friend. In her absence, Monika Gibson provided valuable assistance.
"Finally, I want to thank the Graduate Honor System advisor, Martha Johnson. She has provided sound advice and inspiration to the Honor System personnel."