Stanford’s new C12 proposals on discipline and academic integrity, explained

The Committee of 12 presented sweeping changes to policies on academic integrity and discipline. Soon, the University’s governing bodies will vote on those changes.

April 18, 2023, 10:18 p.m.

The Committee of 12 (C12) has published its preliminary proposals and recommendations that would change several aspects of academic integrity and discipline policy at Stanford.

The C12 — five students, five faculty and two staff — met with stakeholders ranging from the deans of Stanford’s seven schools to students in several off hours sessions. They also met with over 40 student focus groups, as well as the Undergraduate Senate (UGS), Graduate Student Council (GSC) and Faculty Senate.

Before going to Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne, the proposed changes will be voted on by the UGS, GSC, Faculty Senate and Board on Judicial Affairs (BJA), respectively, over the coming weeks.

University spokesperson Luisa Rapport referred The Daily to the Faculty Senate’s recent conversation regarding the C12, during which senators were informed that the C12 solicited feedback from 23 universities in designing their policies and procedures. The conversation also touched on matters of simplifying policy language, explicitly affording disability accommodations for all parties involved and the tensions around proctoring.

As outlined in its proposal document, the C12 was charged with the mission to “determine whether amendments are required to the [Student Judicial] Charter in order to align with our administrative process and community values” and “whether the University should continue to operate under the Honor Code as written for matters of academic integrity.” The Judicial Charter and Honor Code are reported to have last been modified before 2000.

Judicial Charter

The current Judicial Charter reviews academic violations broadly and is considered “a one-size-fits all process, regardless of the seriousness of the alleged violation,” as outlined in the proposal document. Consequently, the C12 has proposed three levels of review: Alternative Resolution, Mid-Level Review and High-Level Review.

The proposed multi-level review outlines a restorative approach that pays particular attention to a student’s potential disciplinary history and the overall situation of their alleged violation of conduct policies.

Jamie Fine, a sixth-year Ph.D. student studying modern thought and literature serving as the C12 student co-chair, said that the review changes are rooted in consistent concerns around the nature of how the Judicial Charter currently operates, referring to the current procedure as “a very much one-size-fits-all approach.”

“The number one concern that we heard related to the judicial charter was how incredibly linear and punitive it was,” Fine said. “What we want is something that’s going to be more educative, more restorative [and] that’s not going to throw the entire stick at every student who makes a mistake.”

Under Alternative Resolution — for the lowest offenses under the proposed Judicial Charter — the C12 proposed an approach where there is no possibility of suspension or probation. Rather, it would require that “the Responding Student must accept responsibility for the alleged violation and accept and abide by the sanctions imposed.”

Alternative Resolution does not go into the formal disciplinary record of a student. If a student has a past violation on their record, they and the Reporting Party of their case have the option to, under extenuating circumstances, agree to opt for the Alternative Resolution.

Alternative Resolution would require a student to meet with the Office of Community Standards (OCS) for a reflection on their violation and the circumstances behind it, what resources are available to them and how they might avoid future violations. The student can choose to let the Reporting Party be present in the meeting with OCS. OCS would keep a record — not appearing in the student’s disciplinary record — of the meeting until the student finishes their degree.

Fine said that she hoped that, through the Alternative Resolution and the multi-pronged approach, processes for the Judicial Charter can be “something that encourages students to learn while they’re on campus. To learn about their role in a community here and going forward.”

If a student has been deemed responsible for a violation in the past, they and the party that reported their present concern have the option of agreeing to using the Alternative Resolution when under extenuating circumstances.

Mid-level review is used when a student does not agree to Alternative Resolution. Mid-Revel Review is an investigative process that requires the use of “clear and convincing evidence” to successfully charge a student. Under this level of review, instances of suspension or probation only last for a single quarter at most.

Viktor Krapivin, a fifth-year Ph.D. student studying applied physics serving on the BJA, which is tasked with overseeing processes under the Judicial Charter, expressed concern around the Mid-Level Review’s approach to removing all records under its purview upon degree completion, particularly as it pertains to repeat offenders.

“I am not sure an automatic removal of this record upon graduation would be appropriate for a student who has already violated the Honor Code in the past,” Krapivin wrote to The Daily.

At that level, the C12 proposal document states that the C12’s decision to remove records upon degree completion was to encourage an approach “educational and reflective in nature.”

If a student contests Mid-Level Review charges, then a panel made of two students and one staff or faculty member determines — upon at least two-thirds agreeing — responsibility and sanctions. Successful determinations of responsibility at this level go on a student’s disciplinary record until they finish their degree.

High-Level Review is the only tier in the proposed review process with the possibility of expulsion. Like Mid-Level Review, High-Level Review is investigatory. High-Level Review also uses the higher “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard to successfully charge a student.

The panel hearing contested charges under High-Level Review is composed of three students and two staff and/or faculty. Responsibility and sanctions are successfully determined upon a four-fifths agreement by panelists. Unlike Mid-Level Review, successful determinations of High-Level Review always appear on the student’s disciplinary record, as is the case for all levels under current policy.

The proposal document states that High-Level Review would be reserved for cases in which potential sanctions could include two quarters of suspension or expulsion from the University.

ASSU Executive President Darryl Thompson ‘23 said that the multi-tiered approach represents progress, noting that “those changes seem to be headed in the right direction.”

Krapivin said he supported the Alternative Resolution as it pertains to first-time violators.

“I think this is a generally great process for first-time violations of the Honor Code and I support giving [OCS] discretion to resolve a case through this process, even over the rejection of the Reporting Party,” Krapivin wrote.

Also included in the C12’s changes are the burdens of proof on the part of the Reporting Party, in some cases, being reduced. Regardless of the level of a violation, the current standard used is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” However, the C12 proposal reserves this standard as necessary only for High-Level violations.

The lower “clear and convincing evidence” standard would be used for charging Mid-Level violations.

This reduction of burdens of proof, Fine said, is rooted in the desire to increase procedural efficiency and be less burdensome on all students involved.

According to Fine, a recurring student concern revolved around how time-consuming the reporting process is. The added time needed to gather evidence and the individuals needed for a case led to some students learning that they have been reported for a violation months after they purportedly occurred.

“By that point in time four or five or 10 classes later, they can barely remember what actually happened. Certainly, there’s the ongoing stress and anxiety that causes for the student. It seems kind of patently unfair,” Fine said.

The C12’s proposals also included modifications for more readable and accessible language. The right “to refuse to engage in self-incrimination” was modified and now proposed as the right “to refuse to offer testimony that would implicate themselves in a violation.”

Krapivin expressed concerns on the difference in terms, saying that “It is unclear if the new language only applies to testimony at a hearing panel or throughout the process.”

The proposal document states that adopting more plain language will give extra support to those “who may be unfamiliar with the vernacular from the U.S. criminal justice process,” particularly international students.

Thompson, a student from Ghana, said that technical legal language is “one of the many things that international students have to sort of navigate when they come into an institution like Stanford [and] processes like this, which more often than not, do not have an analog to maybe systems that they were used to.”

The proposed Judicial Charter also more explicitly mandates that a Reporting Party report to OCS within 60 days of discovering a violation. Current policy says they “should,” whereas proposed language says that they “must.”

Future amendments to the proposed Judicial Charter, as outlined by the proposal document, would require a two-thirds vote of the BJA, followed by the two legislative bodies of the ASSU, the Faculty Senate and Stanford President. Proposed amendments would be invalidated if they either fail to pass a year after their submission or fail to be approved by any one of the bodies requiring their approval.

Honor Code

Regarding the Honor Code, the C12 proposed revising the language of the Honor Code and establishing an Academic Integrity Working Group (AIWG) to commission and implement a multi-year study about “equitable proctoring practices.”

The current Honor Code briefly mentions collective responsibility, saying that “the students and faculty will work together to establish optimal conditions for honorable academic work.” It centers on student responsibility and states the faculty should avoid “academic procedures that create temptations to violate the Honor Code.”

According to the proposal document, the searching of students and/or their belongings should be considered an example of prohibited precautions and the administering of take-home tests that are closed-book an example of temptations conducive to Honor Code violations.

The C12-proposed honor code more explicitly regards collective responsibility, seeking to make the Honor Code “an undertaking of the Stanford academic community, individually and collectively.”

It also outlines a student role of neither receiving nor giving “unpermitted academic aid.” Instructors are to clearly state “in the course syllabus a list of permitted academic aid and a reasonable list of unpermitted aid.”

Fine said that there is a need for clarity on the part of instructors and their syllabi when outlining permitted and unpermitted aid.

“What we have recommended is that every faculty member must be very clear in their syllabi — not in their conversations in class — in their syllabi, about what is and is not permitted aid for each assignment, not for the class total [but] for each assignment,” Fine said. “We can try to eliminate that ambiguity that has arisen multiple times.”

Thompson said that he hoped that clearer syllabi and open, ongoing conversations could “leave more room for people to get acclimated and acquainted with the new process and language.”

The C12 also broadens the definition of instructors — including all undergraduate and graduate teaching assistants — under the term “instructor” for purposes of enforcing the policy.

Krapivin expressed concerns of including TAs as instructors, noting how spread out TA duties are.

“Many times the department or instructor does not adequately dedicate enough time for TAs to perform these enforcement roles in addition to all other TA duties of teaching, grading and preparing class material,” Krapivin said. “I also am not sure TAs are the best persons to be performing this role.”

Proctoring of exams

Among C12’s proposals related to the Honor Code is in-person proctoring of exams.  Specifically, they suggest an AIWG study to consider the potential benefit of proctoring and how it might look like at Stanford in practice.

The proposed AIWG study, following the group’s appointment this upcoming Fall Quarter, would last two to four years and will look into the viability of and concerns associated with proctoring. Also to be considered would be how answering student questions and enforcing academic integrity might be made easier by proctoring.

The AIWG would include four students (undergraduate and graduate, including representation for first-gen/low-income students), four lecturers/faculty (departments with greater academic integrity concerns emphasized for sake of representation), one OCS representative and one Office of General Counsel (OGC) representative. Additionally, student membership of the AIWG would be decided by the ASSU Nominations Committee. Faculty members would be selected by the Faculty Senate Committee on Committees. Members from OCS and OGC would be selected by the Vice Provost for Student Affairs.

The current Honor Code states that faculty express “confidence in the honor of its students by refraining from proctoring examinations.” Proctoring is only allowed at Stanford in the form of instructors being in the class to hand out and collect exams, in which faculty move to another room where they are available to answer clarifying questions that students may have.

However, Krapivin wrote that “leaving the examination room to ask a question about an exam wastes too much time.”

The possibility of proctoring exams is a divisive issue. In its faculty outreach, the C12 document notes that most faculty members and instructors “strongly support” it in some form, with the majority being more clear in STEM fields.

Professor Marcia Stefanick Ph.D. ‘82, the C12 faculty co-chair, said that “We’re not going to recommend proctoring without data gathering.”

Professor Brian Conrad, chair of the C12’s Honor Code subcommittee, said that faculty discretion could play a role in the potential implementation of proctoring.

“Having an Honor Code doesn’t mean that there can’t be any [proctoring], but it also doesn’t mean that there has to be for everything. It could be instructor discretion,” Conrad said.

There is a more mixed set of views on proctoring among undergraduate students. Thompson mentioned that many have been “concerned about the implications of these changes to the way students interact with their faculty, the way they interact with their TA [and] the way they talk to each other.”

All of the candidates who ran this year for ASSU Executive President also expressed their opposition to in-person proctoring.

Stefanick expressed a different view on students interacting with one another as it pertains to proctoring.

“I think we heard from enough students that feel at a disadvantage if they don’t cheat, and they aren’t going to turn people [in] here. So we’re really responding to students,” Stefanick said.

Fine, on the other hand, drew attention to concerns of fairness and clarity that she said proctoring might alleviate.

“We see a big group of students who feel very much that they are being negatively impacted by not having things like proctoring [and] by not having clear lines on what isn’t permitted with assignments and with exams, because they’re graded on curves, and they’re being forced to compete with people that they know are violating our [Honor] [C]ode,” Fine said.

In its proposal, C12 expressly prohibited any proctoring beyond the purview of the AIWG study as well as proctoring done via software or digitally by an instructor. Any policies addressing the conclusions of the study will be left to groups overseeing Honor Code policy.

The AIWG study would also be led by “a disinterested, unbiased external consulting group with extensive experience working with student conduct, campus climate, and [Diversity Equity and Inclusion] concerns,” the CS’s report states.

The AIWG and its partner group would have the discretion to determine what the study’s mandate and metrics of success would be.

According to Thompson, the ambiguity in the AIWG study is cause of concern. “A nuance which we have not explored yet is how the classes who are going to be chosen for this proctoring study will be chosen and the implications that will have for students’ degree progress, if any at all,” he said.

Ensuring communication between the AIWG and students is a priority for Thompson, he told The Daily. Because the study will have some presence in classes as they are underway, potentially impacting students’ class performance, Thompson said “I think that it will be key to ensure that concerns and feedback that students have are addressed in real-time or incorporated into the process as they go.”

Stanford’s administrators and governing bodies would be advised by the AIWG on recommendations to the proctoring policies of the University within one year of the study’s conclusion. Changes proposed would also be voted on by stakeholder groups.

Krapivin said that shared governance in the formation of the AIWG and over the course of its work is of central importance. While groups involved could end up having differing preferences, “the importance is to develop the best solution through a shared governance approach that all stakeholders could agree to.”

To inform its proposals, the AIWG is required to meet with community stakeholders, including but not limited to representatives of academic departments and student groups.

The various governing bodies of Stanford will be voting on the C12’s proposed changes — the changed Judicial Charter, the changed Honor Code and the AIWG — on dates that the Stanford Report announced Thursday. The BJA will be the first to vote on its changes on April 21, followed by the UGS and GSC on April 25, the Faculty Senate on April 27 with final approval to come from the President’s Office.

According to Stefanick, student approval should be viewed with particular importance and urgency, saying that “I would like to urge the students to approve these materials because otherwise they’re stuck with these outdated policies. This is definitely going to be a step in the right direction.”

A report detailing any finalized policy changes and recommendations will be made public by the end of the academic year.

Sebastian Strawser ‘26 is an Opinions contributor. He also writes for Humor and The Grind. His interests include political philosophy, capybaras and Filipino food. Contact Sebastian at sstrawser 'at'

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