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Integrity council releases new policy

The Academic Integrity Council will unveil its proposed new Duke Community Standard--intended to simplify and unify the University's honor code and Fundamental Standard--at Duke Student Government's meeting tonight.

Under the current system, the honor code addresses academic dishonesty, and the Fundamental Standard holds students responsible for a basic respect for others. The new policy combines these codes into an overarching standard, but makes distinctions between sanctions for academic and social infractions.

The AIC's proposal also recommends a more stringent obligation to report violations, elimination of the requirement for proctored exams, recognition of faculty-student adjudication, reconsideration of current excuse protocols and a focus on graduate and professional student issues. The judicial code would remain in place, but the AIC would augment it with a wider and more scaled range of sanctions for violations.

Judith Ruderman, vice provost for academic and administrative services and chair of the council, said if approved, the council would teach and discuss the plan with the community for a year before implementing individual recommendations.

"[The philosophy behind the proposal is] to recognize publicly that honor in the classroom is not divorced from honor outside it, and to reduce the dichotomy between work and play, academic and non-academic, that has characterized Duke in the past," Ruderman wrote in an e-mail. She added that the administration will not implement any "extra snooping or policing" in the enforcement of the proposed standard.

Among the most controversial of the AIC's recommendations is the obligation to report instances of observed cheating. The old code permits students to omit the offender's name and to submit the report anonymously. The new standard, which is less specific, simply expects "expeditious, full reporting by students."

"As it is now, it doesn't prohibit [anonymous reporting], but it doesn't encourage it either," said Council member and computer science professor Owen Astrachan. "We are unsure on the final version of that part."

Astrachan said the new Community Standard is an improvement on the current system, but does not implement a "full" honor code, similar to those that exist at the University of Virginia and Princeton University.

"It is an attempt to be a reasonable compromise," he said, citing the recommendation for the elimination of the proctored exams requirement. At Princeton, Astrachan said, professors are not allowed to proctor exams, whereas under the proposed code, professors would have a choice on the matter.

DSG Vice President for Academic Affairs Abhijit Prabhu called the proposal fair and pointed to the recognition of faculty-student adjudication as a highlight of the community standard. Under this recommendation, a faculty member could choose to individually handle a first-time offender's process, a process that unofficially exists now.

Honor Council Chair Dave Chokshi praised the policy. He said the recommendation on sanctions is still a work in progress, but has great potential. Under the plan, sanctions for violations would be more flexible than the standard two-semester suspension. Ruderman would not release specific changes to the sanction scale, however, because she said the council did not yet wish to "flesh out" specific policy points.

After DSG votes on the policy tonight, Ruderman said the AIC will take the proposal to the Graduate and Professional School Council and the two undergraduate faculty councils. She added that she was unsure whether a student body referendum will take place.