Sunday, March 1, 2009

Get ready to pay for your bad behaviour, naughty student!

March 1 2009, In Unison
Cheating in an exam could now cost you one thousand dollars.
Late last year, Unitec combined and slightly rewrote the general (dealing with things like harassment and wilful property damage) and the academic (dealing with things like plagiarism) discipline statutes for students.
Now called the Student Disciplinary Statue, the document is the basis for what happens when a student is accused of misconduct. It lays out the wide range of what determines misconduct, from causing racial disharmony, damaging properly, plagiarism, cheating on an exam, using someone else’s login details, interrupting a lecture, to getting into a fight.
It also lists the penalties that can be handed down if a student is found guilty of misconduct; these can range from a written warning, a fine up to $1000, being kicked out of your course, to being banned from using Unitec services. USU Education Coordinator Dr Louise Allen says the statue is too vague as it lacks guidelines for which misconduct warrants which penalties. Unitec Executive Officer Glenda Jacobs will advise on the misconduct process on a case-by-case basis.
In the formal process, the relevant Head of Department, Executive Dean or a manager from a service, called the deciding manager, will decide the students penalty if found guilty of misconduct. For something comparatively minor, like miss-referencing an assignment, section seven of the statute recommends an informal resolution.
But in the formal process, the student can be handed more than one penalty off the list, Ms Jacobs says.
“If a student cheated in an exam, they might get a zero for the exam and fail the course (two different penalties in the list), because sometimes getting zero for the exam won’t fail the course.” She says it is important students read through the document. “If students don’t read it they are putting themselves at a disadvantage.”
The statute lays out the process complaints go through, if a student is found of misconduct, they will be notified, given the opportunity to respond, and then their penalty will follow. However, if the student feels the penalty is unfair, they can appeal, taking the case to a panel.
The panel will be made of the student and their support, the deciding manager, as well as a HOD or a senior lecture not associated with the student to avoid conflicts of interest and bias, Ms Jacobs says.
The panel can include, though does not have to, a student representative.
Dr Allen feels this is not good enough. There should be a mandatory student representative on the panel, either from the USU staff or executive, who can keep a check on the process, she says.
The statue needs to be re-looked at with USU involvement.

Phil Goff schmoozes with Westies

March 1, 2009, In Unison
Unitec students need to watch out for changes the National Party may make to their student loans, opposition leader Phil Goff says.
Last week Mr Goff and a group of Labour MPs visited the Waitakere campus, as well as the streets of West Auckland, to talk to people and get back into the pubic light as recent polls show their support is slipping.
Labour will be “vigilant” in making sure student loans remain interest free under the National government, Mr Goff says.
“I think that’s a real threat and students can’t be complacent about their ability to preserve interest free student loans.”
In its election campaign last year, Labour promised a universal student allowance, but with their defeat the plan was not introduced.
“I think it’s sad the students won’t get the universal student allowance which is an acknowledgment of the importance of learning,” Mr Goff says.
The MPs visited a first year nursing class where Mr Goff told the students how important they will be in the workforce when they graduate in three years.
Student Tevita Hala’api’api talked to Mr Goff about his course and found the MP “very encouraging” he says.
The MPs also meet with Unitec management to discuss enrolments and how Unitec is coping in the recession.
Dr Ede says enrolments are up and at this stage Unitec is not concerned about needing to turn anyone away, unlike Auckland University of Technology who said last week they may need to start rejecting applicants with their increasing enrolments in the recession.
Unitec offers many trade courses and Mr Goff says apprenticeships, which are usually cut in the time of a recession, need to continue so New Zealand will have qualified people in the workforce when the recession ends.
Labour want to persuade firms to take on apprentices now, so when apprenticeships end, the workers will come out skilled and the economy will be on the up, he says.
If students are denied apprenticeships, New Zealand will have “the worst of all possible worlds. Nobody will be taken on now and when the economy is on the upswing there won’t be the skilled labour to enable it to achieve to its full potential, or the individuals to achieve to their full potential,” Mr Goff says.