SVCC HLC Self-Study Document

Sauk Valley Community College
HLC Self-Study Document

September 19-21, 2011

4D: Provides Support

Sauk Valley Community College provides support to ensure that faculty, students, and staff acquire, discover, and apply knowledge responsibly.

Sauk has traditionally recognized the link between knowledge acquisition and the need to make responsible and ethical use of that knowledge. This recognition is explicit in two of the Shared Ethical Values statements:

  • Responsibility . . . We value and advocate that all take responsibility for themselves, their learning, and the environment.
  • Integrity . . . We expect and constantly stand for integrity, honesty, and ethical treatment of all people.

These core values about knowledge are also manifested academically in the two general education competencies which address this relationship: ethics and research. The adoption of these general education competencies highlights Sauk’s commitment to a life of academic learning which values multiple perspectives, teaches the codes of ethical conduct of the larger academic community, and protects the rights of individuals. This ideal permeates many of the college’s procedural policies, disciplinary codes, and staff development opportunities.

4D.1: Academic Integrity

SVCC is committed to integrity in the acquisition and dissemination of knowledge as evidenced by policies and practices which ensure academic integrity in the discovery and use of knowledge, including the many ways students are introduced to ethics in instruction and the commitment of the faculty to include ethics and research in the general education competencies.

Student Integrity

A Student Code of Conduct, authorized in Board Policy 616.01 (link to digital resource room support), states that “Students at Sauk Valley Community College are expected to demonstrate qualities of morality, honesty, civility, honor, and respect.” It further describes Sauk's academic integrity policy and defines violations, including definitions of cheating and plagiarism. The document also details for faculty and students the procedures for filing a formal complaint, parties responsible for investigation, and the hearing and appeals process. The Code of Conduct is introduced in Orientation (PSY 100), included in the college catalog, and appears under the “College Policies” section of the homepage. It was also in the student handbook until it was discontinued in FY09.

Although the definition of academic integrity and the procedures for enforcement of the code are clear in the Student Code of Conduct, the policy does not define specific consequences. An informal survey of ten randomly-selected spring 2010 syllabi revealed inconsistency in disciplinary consequences. Three made no mention of academic integrity. Of the seven which contained statements concerning academic integrity,

  • three offered students definitions and examples of what constituted cheating in the course,
  • five referred to the Student Code of Conduct,
  • three defined the consequences “in accordance with school policy,”
  • three included an “F” in the course as a possible consequence,
  • two included “a zero on the assignment,” as a possible consequence, and
  • two alluded generally to “other” possible consequences, including expulsion.

Although latitude in disciplinary action is necessary to ensure fairness, the wide range of definitions and inconsistent consequences make it difficult for students to understand and comply with the college’s expectations for their behavior.

Sauk has adopted two general education competencies which specifically address the integrity of student scholarship and which are subject to assessment efforts:

  • Ethics: Instructional outcomes related to ethics ask students to “identify ethical issues, explain their significance, and analyze the consequences of ethical and unethical behavior.” Systematic collection of data about student skills, as well as faculty-wide discussion of these findings, has shown about 90% of students are capable of identifying ethical issues, and about 70% can explain their significance. This outcome supports the ideal of ensuring that students apply knowledge responsibly and can reason about the consequences of actions.
  • Research: The research outcomes ask students to “identify and evaluate research tools, methods and processes” as well as “identify and evaluate information and sources.” About 88% of students were capable of identifying and evaluating information, according to assessment data, a percentage which suggests that student-conducted research is meeting standards set by the faculty.

Faculty are supported in their efforts by services offered to students and have many opportunities for professional development.

  • The IT Office takes a major role in assisting faculty and staff in understanding and identifying the changing face of academic dishonesty by offering professional development activities like the following examples:
    • A seminar called “Cheating and Plagiarism in the Electronic Age,” which was presented to faculty during 2006 professional development sessions, is currently housed on the IT resources page and focuses on ways faculty can identify and combat cheating.
    • A 45-minute workshop presented to the full-time faculty in spring 2010 explored the use of technology in cheating on classroom tests; reviewed the connection between the Internet and plagiarized writing assignments; and clarified the distinctions between print and digital image permissions.
  • Sauk supports several programs that proactively deter academic dishonesty by offering highly individualized services which promote self-sufficiency and offer students a way to access help and materials without resorting to dishonesty:
    • To provide support for students to control their own learning, the LAC trains its tutors to recognize the boundaries of assistance. The training guidelines direct tutors to be “a partner in solving problems” and not “do the problem” but “help the student do the problem.” Guidelines for writing tutors are even more specific, indicating that tutors must not “write the paper or generate any text for the student.”
    • A grant-funded TRIO program, SSS assists its at-risk participants to face the challenges of joining the academic community by offering individualized services which promote self-sufficiency and promote academic honesty, including personal, academic, and career counseling; free personal tutoring; and resource materials.

4D.2: Responsible Use of Technology

Sauk maintains guidelines for the responsible use of technology in gaining, sharing, and disseminating information (link to digital resource room support). The Acceptable Use Policy (AUP), authorized by Board Policy 429.01 (link to digital resource room support), outlines for all college employees, students, and stakeholders which activities conducted using school technology violate ethical standards, as well as privacy, intellectual, and copyright laws. The policy includes clear examples of the types of actions or behaviors which violate these laws, as well as consequences.

The AUP clearly states that the technological services of the college are closely monitored and that users should expect no right to privacy when using resources provided by the college. Several specific areas of concern are addressed by the AUP:

  • Limitations on use of technology: To maintain an ethical and safe learning environment for all stakeholders, “members are prohibited from accessing, submitting, publishing, displaying, or posting any defamatory, inaccurate, abusive, obscene, profane, sexually oriented or explicit, threatening, racially offensive, harassing, or illegal material.”
  • Dissemination of the policy: A brief statement alerting computer users to their AUP accountability is posted on the login screen on all desktop computers. Users of the wireless network were required to authenticate, and accept the conditions of the AUP, to access the Sauk wireless network. The authentication protocol has been suspended as technology issues are addressed and resolved. In a sampling of course syllabi there was no mention of the AUP.
  • Copyright: One major focus of the AUP is on published materials, indicating that "in the event of notification of alleged copyright infringement by any user,” Sauk will comply with the appropriate laws. The IS/IT Department has created web-based training material for faculty on the subject of copyright and fair use to clarify the unique copyright rules for academic institutions. In their web training “Introduction to Search Engines,” IS/IT outlines the four tests for educational fair use as described by Federal Copyright Law and provides examples that give faculty and staff a sense of the limitations of educational fair use.

Privacy Rights

Responsible use of technology relates to the privacy of individuals and the access which staff has to records and information. Several distinct policies address this area of concern:

  • AUP: The AUP states as violation "breaching confidentiality provisions for institutional or individual information.” It also lists the responsibility of each staff member “to comply with College, federal, state, and local regulations regarding access and use of information resources.”
  • FERPA: Federal regulations establish strict rules for maintaining privacy. Human Resources orients all new employees to FERPA. The college has also presented professional development sessions to faculty and staff which explained common situations in which technology can create privacy violations for educational records. In the past few years, training has been replaced by periodic emails which remind employees of specific technology issues pertaining to confidentiality. A very detailed explanation of the responsibility of faculty in maintaining privacy in information gathering and dissemination is given in the Faculty Handbook. This section defines educational records, explains what can and cannot be shared, gives tests for privacy, and houses a large frequently-asked-questions section which gives very concrete examples of violations and consequences. An electronic FERPA training program is being investigated with the goal of conducting campus-wide FERPA training and requiring all employees to pass a FERPA test, beginning in the fall 2011 semester.
  • Identity theft prevention: After a Red Flagg analysis was conducted, Board Policy 430.01, Identity Theft Prevention (link to digital resource room support), was approved in 2009. The policy attempts to reduce the risk of college data loss and prevent student and employee identity theft.

4D.3: Integrity of Research and Practice

For faculty, ethical responsibility in the classroom is defined in Board Policy 402.01 (link to digital resource room support), which identifies academic freedom as integral to inquiry and exploration, as well as producing habits of responsible inquiry in students. The policy also tempers the potential pitfalls of academic freedom by elaborating:

The protection of the prerogative of academic freedom requires a conscientious, responsible staff. Professional staff members should uphold the dignity of the College in all their activities; set an example of integrity, tolerance and decency for their students; and maintain high standards of scholarship and personal conduct.

Sauk provides oversight and support services to ensure the integrity of research and practice conducted by faculty in a variety of contexts:

  • Assessment: Much of the research conducted on campus is related to assessment of student learning. Board Policy 602.02 (link to digital resource room support) identifies the parameters of this system: “The College shall maintain an academic assessment program, that provides evidence of student learning that is faculty driven, supported by the administration and allows for college-wide, data-driven decision making.” In order to provide transparency to students about the collection process, the following statement is printed on each course syllabus:
    Sauk Valley Community College is an institution dedicated to continuous instructional improvement. As part of our assessment efforts, it is necessary for us to collect and analyze course-level data. Data drawn from students’ work for the purposes of institutional assessment will be collected and posted in aggregate, and will not identify individual students. Your continued support in our on-going effort to provide quality instructional services at Sauk is appreciated.
    A sampling of syllabi conducted for spring 2010 showed that ten of ten syllabi were in compliance in having incorporated the assessment statement.

    As a direct result of general education competency assessment discussions, the faculty has also engaged in several projects which have created resources for faculty to use in the classroom. For example, a cross-discipline discussion of the changing face of electronic research resulted in the English faculty creating a concise guide for faculty who wish to employ research-based writing in the classroom, describing how the standards of citation have recently changed to include emerging electronic content.

  • Human subject research: During the self-study it was identified that Sauk did not have a policy or procedures pertaining to research using human subjects. The Dean of Institutional Research and Planning, along with a committee of faculty and administrators, drafted and proposed a policy which the Board of Trustees approved at its June 2010 meeting as Policy 519.01 (link to digital resource room support). The group completed its work and developed a set of procedures for submitting research proposals and for reviewing and monitoring of all human subject research, conducted by Sauk students, staff, and outside researchers. The procedures are available on the Sauk website.
  • Intellectual property: Another area of responsibility in research is the use of college resources in research which results in intellectual property. Board Policy 428.01 (link to digital resource room support)clearly outlines intellectual property rights. The policy defines intellectual property and gives examples of types of property that may be created under the headings of inventions, written/graphic materials, and recordings. In broad application, determination of rights is expressed as a proportion of Sauk's support, including division of duties, use of college resources, and framework in which the property originated.