Profs: Don’t cheat and don’t boss us

After two hours of talking over one another, shouting out “point of order,” perusing Doonesbury cartoons about cheating and debating more amendments than the chairman could keep track of, Chico State University’s Academic Senate on May 11 managed to approve an academic-integrity policy.

The policy outlines campus concerns about academic dishonesty, asserts a commitment to honesty and creates a Council for Promoting Academic Integrity.

During the weeks since it was presented by members of a broad-based campus committee, the policy had been diluted significantly. The document that was passed doesn’t actually set policy, and it includes recommendations rather than directives.

“This is ‘recommendations.’ It’s not holding anyone to anything,” said student Thomas Whitcher, the A.S. commissioner of university affairs who worked on the draft policy that was two years in the making.

In what was probably the most contentious issue to face the Academic Senate this year, several professors argued that any policy calling for action on their part, such as monitoring test-taking or requiring that suspected cheating be reported, would create more work for them and compromise their academic freedom.

In one particularly heated exchange, as the group ultimately eliminated a line asking that teachers “thoroughly review every written assignment,” Professor Greg Tropea said the policy would have “stunning workload implications.” To that, Professor Andy Flescher said, “You knew what this was about when you signed up get a Ph.D. We all know we’re overworked and underappreciated.”

Professor Sam Edelman proposed amendments that would protect professors’ rights and put student members of the new council in the minority.

Edelman, who left with his motions on the table to attend a rally supporting Marsh Junior High School Principal Jeff Sloan, said the policy opens up a “slippery slope” on which faculty could lose control of the curriculum and course content.

Ultimately, the proposal failed.

Professor Paul Persons introduced his own, substitute motion that rewrote the entire document.

He said the policy was constitutionally flawed, shouldn’t suggest that professors report suspected cheating, and should somehow address the fact that students aren’t allowed to bring attorneys into judiciary hearings.