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Behind the board: Faculty members share experiences with academic misconduct

As a member of the Committee on Academic Misconduct and a professor at Ohio State, Robert Boyd knows both perspectives of a faculty member’s role when dealing with academic misconduct. Credit: Kelsey Henry | For The Lantern

Robert Boyd, an associate professor in neuroscience, has served on countless committees at Ohio State.

Among the graduate, academic and fellowship committees Boyd has contributed to, there is one on which Boyd enjoys serving the most: the Committee on Academic Misconduct. Boyd joined COAM in 2000, and said this committee accomplishes more than any other he has been a part of.

“This is a committee where you actually feel like you get something done,” Boyd said. “I have been on committees where you just sit and talk for years and nothing gets done. With this committee, we make decisions in a matter of a few hours.”

The committee is made up of faculty, as well as undergraduate and graduate students. Many of the faculty who serve on the board have also sent cases of academic misconduct to the committee.

“When I heard about an opening position on the committee, I chose to nominate myself because I have always been interested in the way it works,” Andrew Hayes, a professor in psychology, said. “I have just a morbid fascination of the process and how the other side operates.”

Despite the enjoyment some faculty members have serving on the committee, few enjoy sending students there. In fact, the whole process can be painstakingly long for everyone involved.

“The amount of paperwork we have to do takes days out of our schedule,” Hayes said. “I know some people probably look away because it will take time away from them. However, that reaction is not proper.”

Faculty can understand the mental strain academic misconduct cases can put on students. In fact, some faculty — such as Terry Gustafson, vice chair for undergraduate studies in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry — become emotional during the process, along with the student.

“The whole process is gut-wrenching,” Gustafson said. “I tend to get to know my students by name, so when a case of academic misconduct occurs, it is almost like a betrayal of trust.”

When a faculty member suspects a case of academic misconduct, the process begins with the faculty member filing paperwork describing the situation to the chair of his or her respective department. The chair will then discuss the case with the student and the faculty member, and submit the case to the committee.

Once the case is submitted to the committee, both the student and the faculty member have a chance to present their arguments to the committee. The decision is then up to the committee.

“The system here works well,” Boyd said. “The committee looks at the case in an unbiased way and then makes a fair decision based on the argument and evidence. This prevents faculty members from choosing the student’s punishment arbitrarily.”

When asked to share information about academic misconduct to students, most of the faculty share one thing: Don’t do it.

“Our integrity as individuals is one of the most lasting legacies we can leave,” Gustafson said. “Maintaining integrity is something so critical to future success and takes a lifetime to build, but can be lost in an instant.”

3 comments

  1. I’m looking forward to reading about the committee’s findings when Victor Espinosa tries to fail Hannah Emerson based on his restriction of her speech (writings).

  2. Looks like Professor Boyd could use a new office chair.

  3. It is old, but very comfortable!

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