Class integrity applies to faculty, too

Brianne Fleming, Copy Editor

Expectations at Pitt – Johnstown for both faculty and student academic integrity remain high.

According to the Academic Integrity Guidelines a student violation could refer to something serious such as plagiarism and something relatively minor such as disruptive classroom conduct.

Assistant Vice President of Academic Affairs Paul Newman said not only can a faculty member file a charge against a student, but what students may not know is that they can file a charge against a faculty member if mistreated.

For faculty, an academic-integrity violation can include a failure to hold class sessions or sharing confidential grades.

In 2009, Pitt-Johnstown re-established a procedure that includes a Letter of Resolution, which is a signed agreement between an accused student and the accusing professor.  If the student disagrees with the professor’s bargain, the student can choose to have a hearing to allow the Academic Integrity Review Board to reach a resolution.

The board consists of six students, usually from Student Senate, and six faculty members. They listen to the case and ultimately decide whether the accused is liable and the punishment will be.

“This process holds everyone accountable,” Newman said. “My role is to protect the faculty’s and student’s rights.”

“I mostly sit in the middle of every case,” he said. “I don’t defend the student, but advise them.”

Newman said the Letter of Resolution seems to be getting through to students as a warning sign. If they violate guidelines a second time, they go to the review board, where the punishment will most likely be worse.

“The system is not to punish people, but for maintaining academic integrity,” he said.

“We want a Pitt-Johnstown degree to mean something.”

Newman said it is normal to receive letters of resolution on a regular basis.

“It’s a system that should be fair and educate people,” he said.

The Academic Integrity Guidelines are a detailed 17-page document that clearly states obligations for students and faculty.

“My advice is that if you’re charged, unless you’re 100 percent sure that you’re responsible for the act, you should come and speak to me first,” Newman said.

Pitt-Johnstown junior Luke Mitchell said serving on the Academic Integrity Board is an honor, but also a little intimidating.

“It is great that UPJ allows students to serve on the board because it lets the student body take ownership for the reputation of their university,” Mitchell said. “It also gives the board a perspective it might not have if it were only composed of faculty and staff.”

Academic Integrity Review Board Chair Sharon Bertsch said faculty are expected to follow the rules they are given just as much as students are.

“A lot of students think ‘What will faculty do to me if I file charges against them?’” Bertsch said. “Students also have the right to say, ‘I’m not being treated fairly.’”

“We are here to make sure faculty do their job and follow the same rules as students,” she said.

Bertsch described the process as step-by-step and specific, because all violations are different.

“(For students) Most cases I have seen were students who did something they wouldn’t normally do because of stress,” she said. “It is unfortunate to see that happen.”

Bertsch said, if anything, she hopes the penalty will help students become more organized and structured to prevent the situation from happening again.