Don’t Underestimate the Importance of the Honor and Conduct Board

Unlike the menu of greasy food served at the Pub, or the everyday hours of the library, students are less likely to know the ins and outs of another very important part of the McDaniel community – the Honor and Conduct Board.

The McDaniel website describes the hearing boards as a fusion of students and faculty working to resolve both academic and non-academic charges of misconduct, possibly resulting in suspension or expulsion from the College.

A combination of 10 faculty members and 10 students serve on the board, which is overseen by Elizabeth Towle, Associate Dean of Student Affairs, and Beth Gerl, Vice President and Dean of Student Affairs, and divided by Honor and Conduct allegations.

Professors are chosen to serve for a three-year period and students, once chosen, serve until graduation. This creates constant turnover on the board.

For each scheduled hearing, two faculty members and two students are randomly selected. Members then listen to the accused student, involved professors, and other witnesses applicable to the case before concluding whether the student is responsible.

“The [student] handbook lays out very specific guidelines, so we are not just making up sanctions we see fit,” said Sara Krome, a senior and student board member. “We are following the handbook.”

The Honor and Conduct Board is based around the McDaniel Honor Code. This code of academic integrity acts as a foundation for faculty and student relationships and is emphasized beginning with a student’s acceptance to McDaniel. When incoming students send in their deposit, they also send a signed copy of the Honor Code. Upon arriving for orientation in August, students attend an assembly regarding the code and sign an Honor Code banner that hangs in Decker College Center.

Although the Honor pledge is only 24 easily-memorized words long, it has large repercussions for anyone who violates it.

“A lot of students coming before the board don’t seem to realize how severe the minimum sanctions are,” said Krome. “Perhaps awareness will make them think twice before breaking the code.”

For example, many students do not realize that even for a first alcohol violation, minimum sanctions may include completion of a 2-hour alcohol education class, parental notification, and a $50 fine.

The mixture of faculty and students working together is what makes the board a unique and valuable part of campus, according to faculty members.

“I think it’s an important service that faculty provide to the college,” said Julia Jasken, an Associate Professor currently serving on the board.

“I appreciate that both students and faculty are on the board because we each bring unique perspective to the table. I also appreciate that Dean Gerl and Dean Towle moderate the proceedings but are very careful to ensure that the ultimate determinations are made by the HCB [Honor and Conduct Board] members.”

Serving on the board can be an eye-opening experience for both the students and faculty.

“I like seeing the other side of college life; both from a social and an academic perspective,” said one professor, who wishes to remain anonymous. “I feel the Honor Code is essential to the integrity of both students and faculty and participating in the hearings help me understand why some students feel they need to cheat.”

Junior Ashley Conroy shared a student perspective of the board. “Since I became a member of the board, I’ve learned a lot about this school, the people who go here, and about myself,” she said.

“Some of the cases that I’ve participated in and the sanctions that I’ve brought down have been the hardest decisions that I’ve ever had to make. I have a myriad of stories that serve as cautionary tales to my friends,” she said.

Statistically, the numbers for the Conduct Board have remained consistent over the past two years, showing that the drinking and vandalism habits of students have not evolved much. There were a total of 16 hearings for the 2009-2010 school year and 17 hearings for the 2010-2011 year.

“I think the college sends some pretty clear messages to students,” Dean Towle said.

However, for the Honor Board, the number of cases had been decreasing over the past three semesters until a sudden spike in fall 2011. Last semester, 17 students were found guilty. From 2009-2011, only 18 total students appeared before the board.

Dean Towle speculates that the numbers may correlate to campus conversation about the code, and that more talk means less problems.

The anonymous professor on the board believes that the statistics do not accurately represent student life at McDaniel.

“Many students do not turn in other students, and many faculty think that the case they put forth will not be judged in a fashion that has the outcome that they wish,” they say. “I think that they under-represent the actual amount of both dishonesty in the classroom and conduct violations that occur.”

Currently, there is a committee headed by Kate Dobson, Associate Professor, that is re-examining the code of ethics guiding the McDaniel community.

“We need to figure out what’s working and not working,” said Dean Towle.

It is important for students to understand how the Board works, according to faculty members.

“If they [students] don’t understand the board, they will not be able to be an upstanding member of the McDaniel community, and they will not take the board seriously,” said the anonymous professor.

Dean Towle said, “The hope is that the experience with the Board becomes positive and through the process [students] realize people are there for them.”

The Honor Code is meant to help students now, as well as prepare and encourage them to contribute positively to the community as respectful members of society after graduation.

“You don’t stop making bad decisions after college,” said Dean Towle.

1 Comment on "Don’t Underestimate the Importance of the Honor and Conduct Board"

  1. Although I understand the need to cut printing costs and save paper, I’d like to see printed handbooks again. It makes referencing and cross checking school code much easier.

Comments are closed.