Voyager

Language changed to further emphasize possibility of student involvement in honor cases tried aboard MV Explorer

On the heels of Allison Routman’s and Mark Gruntz’s dismissals from the summer 2008 Semester at Sea voyage, several honor-related procedural changes have been made to the fall 2008 Semester at Sea Voyager’s Handbook.
Routman, an Ohio University student, and Gruntz, a California Baptist University student, were both expelled from the University-sponsored academic program after they were accused and convicted of plagiarizing from Wikipedia. The pair’s honor cases, which garnered national media attention, were heard by a panel of three University faculty members. Routman, Gruntz and others raised concerns about Semester at Sea honor procedures outlined and implemented in the revised summer 2008 Voyager’s Handbook, effective June 15.
As a result of what Honor Committee Chair Jessica Huang called “the Committee’s consistent re-evaluation of bylaws and procedures,” the handbook for the fall 2008 Semester at Sea voyage — which departed from Nassau in the Bahamas, Aug. 29 — has seen several changes to honor case investigation, adjudication and appeal procedures. Huang said no particular cases directly played into the decision to modify the Voyager’s Handbook.
Chapter Three of the fall 2008 handbook, as provided to The Cavalier Daily by University spokesperson Carol Wood and last revised Aug. 24, reveals that students could play a more significant role in on-board honor cases than they did during the summer 2008 voyage.
The fall handbook states that after an alleged academic honor offense is reported to the registrar aboard the ship, he or she will investigate the facts of the case, interviewing relevant parties and collecting evidence. After the registrar completes his or her investigation, he or she will then “compile interview summaries and other evidence in the form of an Investigation Log (the ‘I-log’) and subsequently “convene a panel of three randomly-selected Semester at Sea students (the ‘SAS I-Panel’).”
Previously, under the revised summer 2008 Voyager’s Handbook, the registrar, upon completing his or her investigation, would decide whether to formally accuse the investigated student. Under the fall 2008 handbook, that responsibility is now delegated to the “I-Panel,” which will review the “I-log” and decide by majority vote whether to accuse the investigated student.
Additionally, the fall Voyager’s Handbook also adds that “a trained member of the Honor Committee’s Counsel Pool, in Charlottesville, Virginia, will be available by e-mail (or, if possible, by telephone), upon request (and reasonable advance notice),” to discuss the accused’s case, answer procedural questions and help him or her create a defense.
Just as in the revised summer 2008 handbook, alleged academic honor offenses will be adjudicated by a hearing panel. That hearing panel, however, according to the fall 2008 handbook, will now be composed of “four randomly-selected Semester at Sea students.” The new handbook states that the panel will be overseen by a non-voting hearing chair who is a member of the Semester at Sea faculty or staff, selected by the registrar, and a three-fourths majority vote by the panel will be required to convict the accused student.
The fall 2008 Voyager’s Handbook’s increased emphasis on potential student involvement clarifies procedures found in the summer 2008 handbook and is closer to the student self-governance ideal, Huang said. She noted that student involvement was always an option under the summer 2008 handbook, but said the fall 2008 handbook’s language highlights that feature to a greater degree, while still leaving room to handle “logistical problems.”
According to the fall 2008 handbook, the registrar reserves the right to appoint one or more Semester at Sea faculty or academic staff members as either the “I-Panel” or the randomly selected hearing panel.
The fall handbook states that this provision, under which students would not serve on the “I-Panel” or hearing panel, is included for those times when it proves impossible to convene a fair and impartial hearing panel composed entirely of students.
“That being said, if there is ever a possibility to use a student ... we would love to have that,” Huang said of the Semester at Sea honor investigation and hearing procedures.
In addition to changes regarding the investigation and adjudication of honor cases, the fall 2008 handbook also includes modifications to the appeals process.
In hearing a convicted student’s appeal, the new document states, the “Academic Dean, in consultation with the Chair of the University of Virginia Honor Committee (or, if the Chair is unavailable, in consultation with an Honor Committee Vice-Chair or other Executive Committee member designated by the Chair)” will make the final appellate decision. Previously, under the revised summer 2008 handbook, that duty solely rested with the voyage’s academic dean.
The fall 2008 handbook also includes a change to the amount of time given to a convicted student to appeal his or her charge or charges. The appeal must now be given in writing to the academic dean within 48 hours — not within 24 hours, as was the case under the old handbook.
Another change included in the fall 2008 handbook focuses on expulsion procedures. Previously, under the revised summer 2008 handbook, a convicted student would be immediately dismissed from the academic portion of the Semester at Sea program as well as the ship. Routman and Gruntz were both dismissed as soon as their voyage’s ship docked in Greece.
The fall 2008 handbook, however, outlines a different procedure: “Following expulsion from the academic program, the Executive Dean, on behalf of [the Institute for Shipboard Education], will determine whether and when the student will be expelled from the voyage; such decision resides entirely with the Executive Dean, on behalf of ISE, and not with the Academic Dean or the University of Virginia.”
Huang said removing a student from the ship does not fall under the Committee’s jurisdiction. She noted that the Committee’s and the University’s jurisdiction aboard the ship is limited to the Semester at Sea academic program.
In addition to the changes made to the Voyager’s Handbook, students participating on the ongoing fall voyage were also required to sign a modified “Honor Certification and Pledge,” Wood said.
Signing the certification confirms attendance at an honor system and proper citation style education session, knowledge of the Semester at Sea honor system as outlined in Chapter Three of the fall 2008 Voyager’s Handbook, and willingness to participate in an “I-Panel” or hearing panel if randomly selected.
Routman and her father, Brent Routman, both said they very much appreciated the changes to the Semester at Sea honor system, but noted that, at least in the cases of Routman and Gruntz, the changes came “too late.”
“I think that’s great,” Allison Routman said when informed of the nature of the modifications. “That’s exactly how it should have been for Mark and I. I definitely think that this is what was needed.”
Brent Routman, though, also noted that the implementation of changes to the Semester at Sea honor procedures implies the need for “a do-over.”
“I would hope that the University and the University community would see that there was a manifest injustice here, and I don’t think it would set a bad precedent, due to the highly unusual circumstances in Allison’s case... to look at this again,” Brent Routman said.
No procedures exist for such a request, however, Huang noted.
“Once an appeal is denied, that’s it,” Huang said.
Allison and Brent Routman added that neither has pending legal action against the University.

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