ExComm highlights alcohol abuse

In an effort to increase transparency in how Yale handles disciplinary matters, the Yale College Executive Committee documented a single semester’s cases in its inaugural semiannual report released this week.

The committee adjudicated 52 cases — including alcohol violations, defiance of authority and trespassing — involving 59 students during the fall of 2011, according to the report. Seven of these cases involved plagiarism or cheating, compared to over 50 in the full 2010-’11 academic year, but administrators said it is hard to tell from one semester if this represents a downward trend. ExComm Chairwoman Carol Jacobs recommended in the report that Yale provide more detailed reminders to students about the misuse of alcohol, which accounted for 17 of the cases, as well as additional education on plagiarism.

In the addition to the alcohol-related cases heard by the committee, Jacobs said ExComm referred another 56 cases of intoxication and alcohol possession to residential college deans. ExComm heard 31 alcohol-related cases during the 2010-’11 academic year.

While many of the alcohol-related cases involved violations of rules for buying or serving alcohol, such as using false identification or serving alcohol to minors, Jacobs said the committee also sees “cases in which intoxicated students have put themselves either in particularly dangerous or compromising situations.”

“One does not realize how heartbreaking some of the scenarios of alcohol consumption can be until one serves on the Executive Committee,” Jacobs said.

In contrast to this week’s report, a majority of cases heard by ExComm in the last few years have involved cheating, often in the form of plagiarism. Jacobs and Dean of Undergraduate Education Joseph Gordon attributed the low number of these cases last fall in part to the fact that many cases reported at the end of the fall term have been carried over to the spring, and thus were not included in the report.

Alfred Guy, director of the Writing Center, said it is difficult to determine whether the one-semester decrease in cases is significant since those cases applied to a very small fraction of papers undergraduates write each term.

Jacobs said the committee felt that some students chargedwith plagiarism were “well-intentioned” but did not understand how to properly cite sources.

Guy said that beyond telling students the definition of plagiarism, professors could talk to students more often about their own approach to research and how to contribute to existing scholarship on a topic. He pointed to the Mellon Forums, where seniors present research on their senior theses, as a chance for students to discuss how to effectively cite and build on the ideas of others.

In the past, ExComm published annual reports on its proceedings, but Yale College Dean Mary Miller announced at a faculty meeting this fall that it would release reports twice per year.

“I want that information circulated more frequently, rather than less,” Miller said in a Monday interview. “I think it’s important to report to the Yale community.”

Going forward, ExComm reports will be released in October and in January or February, Miller said.

This week, Yale also released its first University-wide report documenting complaints of sexual misconduct. That report will be released twice a year as well, but Miller said the decisions to release the reports this week and make them biannual were made independently of each other.

ExComm has transferred the responsibility of hearing sexual misconduct cases to the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct, which began functioning in July of last year.

Both reports will be presented to the Yale College faculty at a meeting today, Miller said.

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