Friday, May 26, 2023

Managing Misconduct: Understanding the Role of College Hearing Officers in the University Academic Misconduct Sanction Process

Abstract: For university students, academic misconduct is addressed through policies that establish consequences to promote learning and protect the university’s reputation. These consequences can impact students’ grades, finances, and even visa status. While elements of such policies are similar across institutions, there are uneven reporting patterns within institutions. Ideally, designated administrators facilitate a linear application of misconduct policy. Uneven reporting patterns highlight where policy fails to account for discretionary decisions: How thoroughly should instructors seek evidence of academic misconduct? What counts as evidence? To what extent should a student’s prior sanctions influence a current case? Whose responsibility is it to help students prevent further infractions? The purpose of this study is to explore how administrators within one institution differently interpret academic misconduct regulations as they contend with highly disparate caseloads across academic units. Oregon State University (OSU) provides the context for key research questions: What factors help explain distinct patterns in reporting? What role do administrators play in this process? And,what are the structural factors that influence administrators’ decisions? I conducted individual semi-structured interviews with nine administrators (CHOs) representing different programs at OSU. I paired this input with known outputs of the sanction process, namely aggregate case data for OSU’s 2021-22 academic year. My findings suggest that: 1) lack of centralized guidance, 2) the administrator’s leadership style, 3) the size of the college, and 4) the degree of overrepresentation of international students converge to produce differential caseloads.

Committee Members: Dr. Kelsy Kretschmer (chair), Dr. Allison Hurst, Dr. Brett Burkhardt

Location & Time: Bexell 326 or contact for the Zoom link; May 26, 2023, 10 am