Changes made to SRU Academic Integrity policy

Published by James Cressman, Date: February 1, 2024
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Many Slippery Rock University students were surprised by a sudden update to the Academic Integrity policy, made effective on Dec. 5, 2023. 

Communication regarding the policy updates seemed to begin and end within the administration and faculty. The Rocket was unable to find any communication sent to SRU stakeholders, alerting them of the updated policy. 

Per a poll administered to students (45 respondents), 71% indicated that they were not notified about the updated policy. Twenty-three percent of students first learned about the update from their professors on the first day of classes (Jan. 16). 

“It’s crazy to think that the university is making academic changes and [they are] not making it more known,” an unnamed student said. 

According to Ursula Payne, interim associate provost, the purpose of the policy update was to offer a clearer understanding of how the process works. “We wanted to make the procedures clearer for students so they can understand what those procedures are,” Payne said. 

Payne says the process of updating the policy began in the spring of 2023, with the hope it would be ready for implementation in the spring of 2024.  

While SRU has always had an Academic Integrity policy, Payne says it has never been standardized. 

“People could interpret it different ways and then it kind of plays out in different ways,” Payne said. 

Payne believed the university could do a better job of clarifying the policy and procedures. She thinks they have achieved this with the current updates. 

The policy went through several steps before implementation. Different committees were consulted on the updates before being sent to Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) legal. PASSHE legal had the opportunity to notate updates or edits before returning it to the university level. 

The faculty union was also involved in the process of bringing these updates to life.  

According to Jason Hilton, APSCUF (Association of Pennsylvania State College & Universities Facilities) president, the union was approached by the provost’s office multiple times. 

“Where we had concerns, we expressed them, and the provost’s office made changes to the policy to address our concerns,” Hilton said.  

Prior to the updates, academic integrity was handled through the Student Code of Conduct.  

“APSCUF is happy to see academic integrity concerns addressed through a different process.” 

While APSCUF is satisfied with where the policy currently stands, Hilton believes it is too early to know how effective the policy and new process will be. Currently, the union has no concerns with policy in its final form. 

“We are confident that if concerns develop, SRU-administration and SRU-APSCUF can work together in good faith to address them.” 

Overall, Hilton says the union is happy with the updated policy. 

Violations defined

According to the policy, “A violation of the Academic Integrity policy occurs where a student: engages in deceit or misrepresentation for the purpose of influencing the grading process or obtaining academic credit; engages in behavior that breaches applicable professional standards; or assists other students in evading or violating the university’s Academic Integrity policy.”

While not a primary basis for the policy being updated, artificial intelligence (AI) has become a major contention point within academia. According to the survey conducted by The Rocket, 69% (31) of people responded that they, or someone they know, has used AI to complete an assignment. 

Per the update, students who submit work generated by artificial intelligence presented as their own work will be in violation of the policy. 

This update comes as ChatGPT has become more popular among students and in some instances is being used when turning in work.  

Per the updated policy, “students are expected to understand the difference between generating their own work, versus the use of AI to generate their work.”  

For courses that incorporate the use of AI, students are expected to understand the boundaries and acceptable uses of the tool when completing their work. 

The Academic Integrity policy now includes language regarding class attendance. Students are expected to attend classes regularly and complete all classwork within designated times.  

The Rocket previously reported on an Attendance Policy update in September 2023.  

Students are also expected to understand the difference between direct quotes and paraphrases. If a student chooses to paraphrase, they are expected to convey the text entirely in their own words.   

Procedures for disposition of alleged violations 

Academic integrity violations can now be submitted electronically. Payne believes this is where the policy becomes more standardized. In previous years, it was difficult for a member of the faculty or a student to know the status of a submitted violation.  

Payne says moving forward, students who may be confused about a violation will have the opportunity to follow the process one step at a time. Students will also see an explanation for the violation, and how the professor made the determination. 

According to Payne, at the start of December, the electronic submission process was piloted by two students. 

Per a breakdown of the procedure process, when a faculty member suspects a student of violating the policy, there will be an initial meeting between the student and said faculty member. 

Faculty will be given just 14 days to begin the process of filing a violation. 

This meeting will allow the faculty member to address their concerns and offer the student the chance to respond to the violation accusation. The faculty member will present their findings of an academic violation. Students are not agreeing to or accepting fault for the violation accusation by attending the initial meeting. 

According to Payne, in the conversation between student and faculty, it will be determined by the faculty member whether to pursue the violation or not.   

“With this process, the faculty member will go and submit the violation into the system. The faculty member will then receive an electronic response confirming that submission,” said Payne.  

Students will also receive a copy of the violation, something that Payne says should not be a surprise at this point in the process due to having the initial meeting with their professor.

Per the policy updates, students charged with an academic integrity violation will have the ability to either accept the violation or appeal it. Students will be given seven days from the date of receiving the sanction to file an appeal.  

Students can submit their appeal electronically; a link will be provided within the email containing the violation decision. 

That appeal will then go before the interim assistant provost and the Academic Integrity Review Board (AIRB). 

That board will consist of the interim associate provost, three faculty members recommended by APSCUF and the dean of the college in which the infraction took place.  

“If a faculty member is unable to attend the meeting, they will be replaced on the board by another dean,” Payne said.

Should the AIRB determine there is merit to the student’s appeal, the student would be granted a hearing to present their evidence. Both the student and the faculty member who submitted the violation would be in attendance. 

Whether a student is sanctioned for the violation or wins their appeal, the process is sent back to the college and department from which the student is from. The dean of the college, chair of the department and the student’s faculty advisor will all be notified of the outcome. 

Outcomes 

A student found guilty of violating the Academic Integrity policy could face several sanctions. Per the policy, those sanctions are listed below.  

  • Academic written warning 
  • Developing a remediation plan for educational intervention 
  • Re-examination, re-writing the paper, re-producing the assignment by the student 
  • Reduction in grade/score for the examination, paper or assignment 
  • Assigning a failing grade for the assignment 
  • Assigning a failing grade for the course 
  • Academic probation 
  • Academic suspension 
  • Academic dismissal

While faculty were made aware of the updates in a Dec. 13 email, students received no notification of the updates from the administration. 

For more in-depth information on these sanctions or to view the Academic Integrity policy in full, visit the policy here 

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