Faculty Senate Minutes



Original Minutes of 2/28/01


Present: P. Hajela, L. Kammerer, S. Anderson-Gold, J. Erickson, R. Leifer, L. Caporael, G. Korenowski, M. Hanna, M. Embrechts, C. Breneman, J. Mitchell, G. Belfort,


Student Senate:K. Muhannad, J. Cahill, E. St. Orge, W. Bobrowski, C. Gill, W. Shao, S. Baumah, T. McCue, G. Valadez, A. Cnaan, K. Compton, J. Jones.


Absent: K. Anderson, B. Parson, S. Derby, R. Gutmann, K. Craig, K. Fortun, A. Dyson, P. Quinn, B. Peterson, P. Boyce,


Guests:G. Gabriele, M. Smith, P. Azriel




Presentation on Academic Honesty & Integrity

Undergraduate Curriculum - William Bobrowski, Student Senator

Improving Communication with Faculty




President Prabhat Hajela called the meeting to order and reminded those in attendance that the meeting is a joint meeting with the Student Senate and that Mr. Muhannad will be co-chair of the meeting.


Presentation on Academic Honesty & Integrity – Gary Gabriele

Gary Gabriele presented on Academic Honesty and Integrity, which was followed by discussion. 


T. McCue asked if there are any plans to outline the penalties and the procedure governing academic dishonesty in the handbook.  Gary responded that they are trying to implement the policy as written.


M. Smith stated that the policies are quite outdated. He added that the penalties are at the discretion of the faculty member and that it may range anywhere from a zero on a homework assignment, to failure of the course, to insisting the student be put into the juridical system which can go from no action to expelled. Gary stated that they are currently revising the letter that was sent to the faculty from the Provost office, asking that they be as clear and explicit as possible in respect to academic integrity issues.  The Faculty Senate Curriculum Committee is now looking into putting together a list of sample statements outlining the penalties and expectations that faculty may use in their syllabus.


A. Cnaan asked for clarification on the topic of student versus faculty environment.  If he understood correctly, Gary’s concern is that the responsibility is only on the faculty to monitor for academic dishonesty.  But his concern is that faculty may be expecting students to spy and report on each other. G. Gabriele responded that all the responsibility is with the faculty and not with students.  This means the faculty has to do all the policing. However, academic dishonesty is not hurting the faculty, it is hurting the students. For that reason, he feels students should decide on how they want to deal with this issue of academic integrity.


Mike Hanna stated that the expectations and penalties need to be stated in the syllabus, but then a situation is created where the student my wonder if they are worse off to leave out an assignment and get a zero for it, copy it and if they get caught, then the penalty states they will receive a zero for that assignment.  He would not recommend a system where there are set penalties; he believes the faculty should be able to identify what the penalties are for that partial course and have a system where the students have the opportunity to disagree with that level of punishment and challenge it.


W. Bobrowski said he has drafted a proposal to form a joint Faculty-Student Commission on Academic Integrity.


G. Gabriele said that he is not present to advocate a system as to what the penalties should be or how they should be implemented or whether students should spy on each other or not.  He is present to point out that the system is not functioning properly, and it needs to be reviewed and updated.  How to achieve that is what these two bodies need to decide.


T. McCue suggested that to have a productive session both parties need to figure out all the problems with the current system and make a list of all the issues which need to be changed or addressed in order to be productive in eliminating the problems.  He feels this will need to be a delicate balance.  There needs to be a balance of the penalties against the students’ rights to know what their penalties can be.  The faculty should not be limited in what they can impose.  It will take some compromising from both parties to achieve this.


Linnda Caporael asked the students what they feel causes the lack of academic integrity.  Prabhat Hajela asked how widespread the academic dishonesty is at RPI.  W. Bobrowski said that to get a better grade or to get the best grade they can with the least amount of work. He said he has done things that could be interpreted as academic dishonesty and he thinks most students would say the same thing because if collaborations are defined or working together as academic dishonesty, then it is very widespread.  The question is when does it stop being appropriate in the framework of the course to collaborate and work together, and when does it start being academic dishonesty?


Linnda Caporael asked how much of this is due to the workload.  A. Cnaan said that he thinks one of the most frequent issues that he has heard is that students have a sense that only a certain number of students are going to be allowed to achieve the highest possible mark.  This creates the issue of grade inflation but students have the fear that even if they do perform a certain amount of work, they may still get outdone, which creates tension, which leads to cheating.  As to whether there is a large amount of cheating, during his time as an undergraduate and as an instructor he has seen very few cases.


G. Valadez said he thinks there is a lot of collaboration going on, but he does not see a really organized attempt to defraud the system.  What he does see is collaboration in the sense, “you do the first three, I'll do the last three and then let's talk about them”, but in the end everyone learns it for the exam. He thinks collaboration is a key element employers look for when hiring.  T. McCue said that on the collaboration issue, more and more courses suggest working with a partner on homework, but separate copies must be turned in.  Students are collaborating but he thinks it is a different form. How is collaborating versus copying defined?  In terms of academic dishonesty, most course material needs to be taught every year, which makes it hard to change material from year to year. As a result most homework is the same from previous years, as are the tests.  This allows for previous copies to be circulated to students presently taking the course.  In terms of actual percentages, it all depends on how cheating is determined.  If collaboration is classified as cheating, then its 90% on this campus.  Most private and public schools are experiencing the same problem, it is not just at RPI. It is a wide spread problem. He sees part of the problem as defining the difference between cheating and collaboration.


J. Cahill said the collaboration aspect needs more definition.  There are so many things that students have to collaborate on that it becomes a habit.  Students collaborate with everyone on everything.  The technical definition of collaboration versus the many forms of cheating need to be looked into.


Georges Belfort suggested that establishing a set of strict rules is not feasible.   He said it will be very hard to establish as each class has a different set of expectations, as does each professor.  He does not believe collaboration is a problem and believes it is a terrific way to learn.  If any industry person is consulted, the first question they want to know is if our students know how to work together and can they talk to another person. The critical point is what are the expectations of students by a professor.


Gary Gabriele said that all the discussions point to the same thing that the definitions are nebulous.  He disagrees with Georges in the sense that the rules would not be hard to set.  They can be as fundamental as “anything you turn in has to represent your own works and if it does not, it is a violation of integrity”. It does not mean students cannot collaborate or work together. It just means they need to turn in their own work.


C. Breneman said he thinks it is the responsibility of the faculty to make very clear in the syllabus handout all expectations to avoid situations that have been discussed today.  He would also encourage collaboration on homework, but he does not want to see a situation where one student does it and the rest copy it. If they choose to do this it hurts them, not anyone else.


M. Smith stated that inherently everyone knows the difference between honesty and dishonesty. If the criteria is looked it, it is pretty clear in terms of what is appropriate and what is not.  It has more to do with a willingness to accept the responsibility of what each student does as their own work and what they do is fulfilling and why they are here. The dishonesty and cheating is more of an opportunity than a choice.  It can be defined and penalties can be assigned to a point.  Sooner or later, it is up to the individual to take that responsibility.


R. Leifer believes this commission should move forward as conditions have changed such as use of web CT, which is changing the nature of how people present assignments.  He thinks with the opportunities on the web to do research or have other people do papers for students as well as the use of laptops during exams, the whole issue needs to be reviewed and brought back for discussion by both students and faculty.   He then made a motion to “develop and set up a joint commission to look into Academic Integrity.”


Prabhat Hajela asked whether he is proposing that the faculty and student members have to be drawn from the senate or could they be drawn from the student or faculty body at large.  W. Bobrowski said there is no specification that they need be senators.


The motion was seconded and unanimously approved.  The commission will be appointed no later then April 22nd.


M. Hanna stated that realistically, he does not believe having this go through the student judicial system hearing board process is wise.  In doing that it would be going up to the next level which is a group of people from different areas deciding if the faculty academic board's action were right.  They are being asked to over rule the decision made by the Faculty Board, and then asking the administration to change the grade. This should occur under the procedure process and he feels this is an important procedurally change.


Richard Leifer said he believes it is a matter for the juridical review committee (that is currently taken place) because it is a juridical issue, not an academic integrity issue of where that board should sit.


Georges Belfort asked what kind of honor system RPI has.  Gary Gabriele responded that there is no official academic honor code.  Richard stated that this is what the commission should address and hopefully develop a better definition of what is acceptable and not acceptable and what academic integrity represents.


Undergraduate Curriculum – William Bobrowski, Student Senator

Student Senator, William Bobrowski, gave a presentation on Undergraduate Curriculum.


Mike Hanna asked if there is a sense among the students that if laptops are not used in every course they attend, that they have been cheated.  Gary Gabriele said that the laptop program has only been active for two years, which is only on the levels of freshman and sophomore.


Student T. McCue stated that the 4 X 4 worked in the freshman year and some in the sophomore year but did not work at all in the junior and senior years (junior and senior years seem to be 3 x 5), because the curriculum, and the course catalog in 97' as well as what is needed to graduate is still slightly different from classes that are offered.  Also, in some cases the combination of classes that were created to work with the 4 X 4 did not integrate properly with the 3 x 5 classes.  The issue of Mon./Thurs and Tues/Friday imbalance is only one issue.  This semester there were three different ECS courses that he could take and wanted to take but they were all on the same days and times. It is not just a Mon/Thurs and Tues/Friday imbalance but also a great imbalance of when courses are being offered. 


Improving Communication with Faculty

Student K. Muhannad said that they would like to hold regular Student/Faculty meetings and also have a representative from the Student Senate attend regular Faculty Senate meetings.


Student T. McCue feels that a few more students should be added to the Faculty Senate Curriculum Committee, because he feels that just one student representative for all students (undergraduates & graduates) is not allowing for a broad perspective on issues. 

Student W. Bobrowski said that technically there are three students on the committee (2 undergraduates, 1 graduate).  He believes that the Faculty Senate Curriculum Committee is the only contact between the faculty senate and student senate. He would like to see more interaction between the two bodies, such as cross-committee membership


Mike Hanna said the Faculty Senate only has three committees, Promotion and Tenure, (is not relevant), Planning and Resources and Curriculum Committee.  He does not see any reason why a student senator would have to be omitted from attending.  Curt Breneman stated the only reason he could see why they would be omitted is when they are holding discussions on issues not for general release.


Student K. Muhannad would like to set up regular meeting times for both groups, possibly once a month.  President Prabhat would like to discuss this in more depth within the Faculty Senate. He thinks the frequency of the meetings in order to keep the lines of communication open between both parties.


Linnda Caporael asked that when the Student Senate has elections, if they would please notify the Faculty Senate of the changes in positions so the new contact person for the Student Senate will be known.


T. McCue asked that in order to keep the lines of communications open, would it be possible to have a liaison position between the two committees.  Joint meetings would be nice, but right now if communication would flow more easily between the two groups (emails, etc) it would be a step in the right direction. This way if there is a common issue, a meeting can be held to work it out.


Gary Gabriele stated that in terms of communication, he believes the Faculty Senate is a pretty open body.  The meetings are open; the Minutes are posted on their web page at www.rpi.edu/dept/facsen.  There is a lot of opportunity for students to sit in on Faculty Senate deliberations without much formality.



Meeting adjourned 4:45 p.m.