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.