The George Washington University’s Code of Student Conduct and Code of Academic Integrity were both approved and put into effect on Aug. 1. Both codes, housed under the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities (SRR), have committees made up students, faculty and staff that meet throughout the fall and spring semesters to implement changes for the 2022-2023 academic year.
GW Today asked SRR Director Christy Anthony, SRR Assistant Director Aaron Howell and SRR Senior Student Conduct Officer Amy Beltran about the changes.
Q: What feedback and evaluations had you heard from students that led to some of these updates of both codes?
Regarding the Code of Academic Integrity, we heard confusion from both faculty and students about the timeline to submit documents and witness names while being fair to the student who should be able to meaningfully respond to that information. The new code requires SRR to publish those guidelines.
Additionally, we received feedback from students and faculty, including some of our panelists, that the use of “intentionally or knowingly” in the definitions was sometimes confusing, as was the term “academic exercise.” If a student plagiarized accidentally, should they still be held accountable or did intent need to be demonstrated? The new Code of Academic Integrity clarifies when intent needs to be demonstrated in order to find a violation and that intent can always be considered a factor in sanctioning. We’re grateful for the feedback of students, faculty and staff to help clarify when intent and knowledge should be considered, and when it should not.
Regarding the Code of Student Conduct, a recent survey indicated that GW students would benefit from more knowledge of the Alcohol and Other Drug Medical Amnesty Policy and the Good Samaritan Policy, so updating those was a focus of discussions. We hope the new policies, and their implications for groups to receive amnesty, will help promote their use.
Students who experienced incidents of vandalism asked for the definition to be expanded to include “tampering with” objects, so we added that to the definition regarding property-related misconduct.
Finally, we heard from students, including leaders from marginalized communities, that the privacy recording policy made them hesitant to document and report instances of hate/bias or discriminatory misconduct. We wanted to reduce that barrier to reporting these harmful incidents at GW, so the code now makes it a mitigating factor if such recordings are made solely for the purpose of reporting to university officials or law enforcement.
Q: In the Code of Student Conduct, what are a some of the most significant changes that you most want students to know heading into the academic school year?
- Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) Medical Amnesty can be available for student organizations.
- AOD Amnesty can be available to students who are evaluated for transport, regardless of whether an actual transport occurs.
- Regarding the prohibition against making a recording of another person where they have a reasonable expectation of privacy, when that recording is made for the sole purpose of reporting an incident to GW or law enforcement, that reporting will be a mitigating factor.
- While the function has not changed, we’ve updated the term “advisor” to support being more consistent with restorative language and to avoid confusion with the very different role advisors have in Title IX processes.
- We’ve specified that Circles of Support and Accountability, a restorative measure for students returning to GW, can be assigned as an outcome.
- Consistent with a recently passed law in Virginia, we have expanded immunity for those who report incidents of hazing.
Q: How about in the Code of Academic Integrity?
- The term “academic exercise” is now defined in the code, so that students understand the wide range of assignments for which they may be held accountable under the code.
- Revising the definition of each violation in the code to remove the phrase “intentionally or knowingly” where appropriate and adding that “evidence of intent or lack thereof by the respondent” is a factor that may be considered in sanctioning.
- Revising all variations on “days” in the code to be “business days.”
- Consistent with the Code of Student Conduct, changing “advisor” to “support person.”
Q: Even if students don’t have any intentions of breaking these codes, why are these changes important to know?
The codes exist not only to hold students accountable, but also to inform them of the university’s expectations for how all students can uphold the values of GW’s community. Unfortunately, every year we also have students who harm their fellow students, and we want those harmed parties to understand their rights and options under the codes.
Q: If students would like to be a part of the conversation or offer feedback for the next round of updates, how might they do so?
Any community member can provide feedback on the codes via a form on our website. If community members are interested in participating on the Code Review Committees, they can email [email protected]. Finally, information on serving as a member of the University Integrity and Conduct Council is also available on our website.