Faculty Senate hears proposed changes to Honor Code, Judicial Charter
The Faculty Senate heard a presentation from the Committee of 12 on proposed changes to the Honor Code and Judicial Charter during its Thursday meeting. Senators also heard a dean’s report from the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability.
The matter sparked a wide-range discussion of how proctoring should be handled, inequities in how the current Judicial Charter is applied, the role of technology, and pitfalls in the Honor Code, among other matters.
In remarks to the senate, President Marc Tessier-Lavigne discussed his recent visit with Stanford’s Jewish community for a Shabbat dinner, organized by Hillel and the Jewish Student Association. Tessier-Lavigne said he is grateful for the insights provided by students into the experience of Jewish students today, including recent acts of antisemitism on campus such as a scrawled swastika found in a restroom this week.
“As I expressed to students, and I want to reiterate here, Stanford rejects antisemitism, and the symbols of antisemitism, with all our might. Hatred in any form is not tolerated on our campus,” Tessier-Lavigne said. “Our Jewish students, faculty, and staff are important members of our Stanford community.”
In addressing recent graduate student unionization efforts, Tessier-Lavigne reiterated the principles informing the university’s approach to graduate student unionization.
“Whatever the results of the union election, we are dedicated to continuing to train our graduate students, to deepening their expertise, and preparing them for future success,” Tessier-Lavigne said. “And we are committed to working to understand, appreciate, and be responsive to their needs.”
Lastly, the president noted the announcement of this year’s Commencement speaker, tennis legend John McEnroe: “He has had a remarkable career as an athlete, a broadcaster, a voice actor, a philanthropist, and more. Certainly his insights and experiences will help our graduates think through the next chapters in their own lives.”
Addressing the senate, Provost Persis Drell took the opportunity to announce the members of the search committee formed for the vice provost and dean of research.
Faculty Senate Chair Kenneth Schulz also announced the members of the ad hoc committee on university speech created in February.
Additionally, senators heard a dean’s report from the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability and a motion regarding recent communication from the president.
In 2019, the C-12 was charged with reviewing and considering changes to the Honor Code, Judicial Charter, and interpretations to the Fundamental Standard.
Originally known as the Committee of 10, the C-12 is composed of students, faculty, instructors, and staff, explained Marcia L. Stefanick, C-12 faculty co-chair and professor (research) of medicine and of obstetrics and gynecology. Stefanick presented the findings with C-12 members Brian Conrad, professor of mathematics; Mark DiPerna, assistant vice provost and deputy dean of students; and Whit Froehlich, graduate student at the law school.
The C-12 has conducted extensive faculty, student, and institutional outreach, including soliciting feedback on academic integrity policies and procedures from 23 universities.
DiPerna explained that one drawback of the current Judicial Charter is that it uses a one-size-fits-all process, regardless of the seriousness of the alleged violation. “The stakes are really high and we think that sometimes they should be,” DiPerna said. “But we also feel like we lose a lot of educational value of students learning from their mistakes when we treat these lower-level violations the same as high-level violations.”
The C-12 proposes to instead use a three-tiered judicial process with different burdens of proof, processes, and potential consequences, depending on the severity of the alleged offense.
The current process is also lengthy and cumbersome, DiPerna said. To address this, the C-12 proposes amending the disciplinary process for a quick resolution of low-level, first-time uncontested violations, mandating the reporting time frame, and reducing the panel size.
While much of the Judicial Charter uses language from the criminal justice process, the C-12 proposes to revise the legal criminalistic framing, include the right to disability-related accommodations, and improve readability, DiPerna said. “We just tried to make it more plain language, and we really think that’s going to help a lot for international students who maybe aren’t familiar with the U.S. criminal justice process or maybe students [for whom] English isn’t their first language.”
For the Honor Code, the two-part proposal package includes new text and definitions, and the launch of the Academic Integrity Working Group (AIWG) to evaluate equitable practices for proctoring in-person examinations.
As is, there are multiple points of failure in Honor Code compliance, Conrad said. “Among the changes that we tried to make was to provide clear descriptions of the responsibilities of both students and faculty toward sustaining the Honor Code, in particular conveying this should really be viewed as a joint effort by both sides,” Conrad explained.
Many concerns come from the issue of proctoring, which is not used under the Honor Code, and instead works upon the “completely broken” premise of students supervising each other, Conrad said. Very few students report Honor Code violations, with only two reported by students out of 720 between 2018 and 2020.
Under the C-12 proposal, the Honor Code would no longer explicitly prohibit proctoring, and there would be an AIWG multi-year study on the potential impact of exam proctoring, Conrad said. Further, the C-12 advises that the Honor Code clarify the definition of unpermitted aid, and require parameters by assignment be addressed in syllabi.
Conrad said exam proctoring and an honor code are not inherently inconsistent with each other, noting that other institutions balance both. Proctoring is often standard at educational institutions and for professional certifications.
Some senators made impassioned comments in favor of proctoring. “I think a really positive aspect of proctoring is that a person with intimate knowledge of what is being asked is in the room and is immediately available to clarify questions from students,” said Juan Santiago, the Charles Lee Powell Foundation Professor and professor of mechanical engineering.
Moses Charikar, the Donald E. Knuth Professor and professor of computer science, detailed how students said in an anonymous poll that there’s an undue temptation to cheat, with some wondering how the university can be so naive as to assume students won’t do so. “I do really worry about the students whose moral compass actually prevents them from breaking the rules, and they suffer,” he said.
Branislav Jakovljevic, the Sara Hart Kimball Professor in the Humanities and professor of theater and performance studies, asked about how the multi-year study would handle the speed at which technology – such as ChatGPT – is developing. Conrad answered that once the AIWG is appointed and given their charge, they will judge how long it may take to gather information for a sustainable policy.
Senators must provide feedback by April 17, and the proposed changes will be voted on by several groups: first by the Board on Judicial Affairs; then by the Graduate Student Council and the Undergraduate Senate on April 25; by the Faculty Senate on April 27; and lastly, subject to approval by the President’s Office. A final report and recommendations will be delivered by the end of spring quarter.
Five years’ effort
The launch of the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability (SDSS) last fall was an effort five years in the making, and momentum is still building, said Dean Arun Majumdar. “Addressing climate change and sustainability requires a deep understanding of Earth, climate, and society,” he said. “It is a topic where science, engineering, business, law, social sciences, health, and humanities are intricately connected. In short, the challenge is complex, and it spans the whole campus.”
Majumdar explained to senators that SDSS has a three-part structure: academic departments leading curiosity-driven research; interdisciplinary institutes providing proof-of-concept solutions and stakeholder engagement; and the Sustainability Accelerator to nurture and launch for scalable solutions.
As one of the school’s strategic priorities, SDSS is steadily recruiting and fostering talent. Its faculty is already about twice the size of Stanford Earth, which became part of SDSS, and 60 more faculty will be hired over the next 10 years, Majumdar said.
SDSS is expanding opportunities for undergraduate student participation in sustainability, building on existing opportunities for graduate students, and leveraging direct impact and action-oriented coursework.
In another priority, the Sustainability Accelerator recently launched with the goal of finding knowledge gaps and solving problems through a combination of technology, policy, digital platforms, education, and mobilization, Majumdar detailed. The first focus or “Flagship Destination” of the new accelerator will be atmospheric greenhouse gas removal.
In integrating different parts of campus, SDSS is developing processes for parity and transparency across the school while leading with diversity, equity, and inclusion, Majumdar said. He cited his listening tour throughout the summer and fall quarters in which he engaged with students over concerns about fossil fuel funding of research, and other topics as an example of upholding cultural values of academic freedom and freedom of expression.
‘A bedrock principle’
Senators heard a motion endorsing Tessier-Lavigne’s recent message “What Binds Us Together” and congratulating him on it. The motion was brought by Santiago and was passed.
The April 3 letter “eloquently reasserts academic freedom as a bedrock principle at Stanford,” the motion reads. Recent senate meetings have centered on the importance of academic freedom at the university.
Senators also heard three memorial resolutions.
George Hardin Brown, professor emeritus of English, died Nov. 6, 2021, at age 90.
Donald Nagel, professor emeritus of orthopedic surgery at the Stanford University School of Medicine, died May 24, 2020, at age 91.
Robert Dario Simoni, the Donald Kennedy Chair in the School of Humanities and Sciences, Emeritus, and professor emeritus of biology, died Sept. 18, 2020, at age 81.