YU to Update Academic Integrity Policies
New academic integrity policies are in the process of being finalized for all of YU’s undergraduate schools. These enhanced policies will introduce a single, campus-wide Academic Integrity Committee (AIC), a protocol for conducting in-class exams, guidelines for creating exams, acceptable excuses for makeup exams and instructions for professors who suspect a student of cheating. Commenting on the new policy update, Dean Karen Bacon said, “The draft document is being reviewed by faculty members. It is our hope that we will have a final version in the very near future.”
Shortly before midterms began this fall, Deans Karen Bacon, Rabbi Yosef Kalinsky and Noam Wasserman emailed students about the impending changes to YU’s academic integrity policies for all undergraduate schools. The emails, which were sent out on Oct. 28 and 29, explained that this effort includes new policies, but is focused on “better [enforcing] the existing policies.”
“There have not been any large scale notable cheating scandals that have broken this year, as there have been in years past which is a very good sign,” Leib Wiener, president of YCSA, shared. “As the administration continues to focus on this issue, I think we will continue to see great returns.”
In the new policy draft, every potential breach of YU’s academic expectations will follow a formal process overseen by the AIC. In the past, each of YU’s undergraduate schools had their own, unique AIC to address allegations of student cheating; this caused concern for inconsistent policy application. “Having a single committee,” the deans explained, “will enable us to follow a uniform process for all undergraduates and ensure consistency in outcomes across cases.”
The sequential procedure for addressing cheating is charted below and will continue to be the standard course of action.
Composed of representatives from YU’s undergraduate schools, the new AIC will consider all factors before administering a student’s penalty; for example, as noted in the policy, the committee will weigh the violation’s severity, the student’s history with such infringements and the student’s acknowledgment of wrongdoing.
“Yeshiva University has a zero-tolerance policy for unethical behavior,” the draft warns, “to be enforced more strongly than ever before.”
Under these new policies, new preventative measures will be implemented to significantly limit the available opportunities to cheat. During an in-class examination, all personal items should be left by the door, and students should be assigned seating. For non-essay exams, alternative “A and B” versions should be given to adjacent students. Allowable supplies for exams will be limited to ten-button calculators without memory capacity, unless otherwise told by a professor. Once the exam begins, students will be denied bathroom usage until they hand in their tests.
Professors will also be advised to actively proctor exams by periodically walking around the classroom and avoiding cell phone or laptop usage. Additionally, if an exam is given in a classroom with built-in monitoring equipment, that preventive feature should be utilized.
One section of the new, drafted updated academic integrity policies is titled “Exam Formats.” Professors will be advised to create new exams each semester and are cautioned against using test banks. While test banks will still be permitted, new conditions for their usage ask faculty to collect questions from various sources and to not use the course textbook’s question bank.
Traditionally, professors would recycle past exams for new semesters, but they will be encouraged to upload past exams to the YU library, creating a resource for students to utilize when studying. This recommendation will be designed to even the playing field for all students, who would clandestinely pass old exams to new students for studying — colloquially known as “mesorah.” Mesorah has given an advantage to students who receive past course materials, leaving other students to get the brunt of the curve.
The policies will also mandate that any students seeking permission to take make-up exams will only be permitted to do so with documented proof of requisite circumstances. These acceptable excuses include three exams on the same day, death of an immediate family member (including grandparents) and sickness, among other examples.
Faculty will be provided instructions for how to take immediate actions if they have suspicions of cheating. For example, actions like photographing the offense, gathering evidence and removing the student from the room would be suggested.
Issues relating to academic integrity continue to dominate discourse on campus, ultimately resulting in a flurry of policy revisions. Over two years ago, The Commentator reported on the beginning of dialogue between deans and students “to discuss cheating on campus and methods to prevent it in the future.” The last official update of university-wide academic integrity policies were published on Dec. 14, 2018. However, in the spring of 2019, after students came forward with new concerns, the deans felt that YU’s academic environment was falling short of its expected ethical standards; this triggered minor policy updates only for Yeshiva College in April 2019. In light of that inconsistency, YU deans and Provost Selma Botman undertook the task of reforming the academic integrity policies across campus, as described above.
“Stronger academic integrity is in everyone’s interests. It enables us to make a kiddush Hashem,” the deans remarked. “The new policies will remove temptations to compromise on [our] values … and will hopefully increase the ways in which we can all work together to ensure the utmost integrity within and beyond YU.”
Weiner added, “Discouraging [cheating] and promoting a non-cheating atmosphere on campus when it comes to tests and papers is how we will continue to try and move forward on this issue.”
Photo Caption: Glueck Room 308
Photo Credit: The Commentator