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Division I to consider tougher academic integrity policies

New legislation sets expectations for athletics staff and student-athletes, define academic misconduct and impermissible academic assistance

At a time when national attention is focused on academic integrity in higher education, the Division I membership will now have the opportunity to change its academic misconduct rules.

On Tuesday, the Division I Council sponsored a Committee on Academics-drafted proposal – the result of more than two years of deliberation – that would change the way the division regulates academic misconduct.

The proposal would set the expectation that all students and staff members act with honesty and integrity and would define academic misconduct, impermissible academic assistance and other academic improprieties that may occur at a school. If adopted, it will be the first legislative change in the area of academic integrity since 1983.

“Members of the Committee on Academics and, before it, the Committee on Academic Performance and the Academic Cabinet, have worked hard on this issue for several years, and the proposal will improve the way the NCAA regulates academic misconduct,” said Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis, chair of the Committee on Academics. “We based the proposal on a set of core principles and sought extensive membership feedback as we made decisions.”

The committee devised a set of principles to guide its work in this area, including:

  • Intercollegiate athletics programs shall be maintained as a vital component of the educational program and athletes shall be an integral part of the student body.
  • Academic misconduct legislation should be consolidated in one location in the Division I manual.
  • Involvement of staff or coaches in athlete academic misconduct should be an NCAA violation.
  • Schools must have and adhere to written academic misconduct policies.

The proposal represents unprecedented, extensive collaboration between the Committee on Academics and the Committee on Infractions, the Legislative Committee, external associations and individual conferences. The committee sought membership feedback at every stage.

The end product strives to strike the appropriate balance between the sentiment that there should be significant deference to member campuses on issues related to academic misconduct and the belief that the NCAA must ensure a consistent national approach in certain circumstances.

The proposal requires schools to have a published academic misconduct policy for all students. A school must follow its policies, regardless of circumstance, but may expedite the process for student-athletes, so long as the expedited process has been approved by school officials outside of the athletics department. The process otherwise remains the same, ensuring student-athletes are treated the same as general students.

The proposal also would define when a student worker’s involvement would be considered academic misconduct – when directed by an adult or when the student worker has academic support responsibilities. Under this proposal, a school would not only have to follow its own academic integrity policies, but also monitor its programs for NCAA-defined types of impermissible assistance.

The proposal defines impermissible academic assistance as:

  • Substantial academic assistance to a student-athlete not generally available to the school’s students or not expressly authorized by other Division I rules that causes the student to be declared eligible, receive aid or earn an Academic Progress Rate point.
  • Creating an academic exception for a student-athlete to improve a grade, earn credit or meet a graduation requirement that is not generally available to the rest of the student body and that causes the student to be declared eligible, receive aid or earn an Academic Progress Rate point falsely.

The proposal now enters the 2015-16 legislative cycle. The Committee on Academics recognized its responsibility to provide the opportunity for the membership to officially react to the proposal, and the membership can formally comment on and offer amendments this fall. In addition, governance bodies such as the Legislative Committee and the Council will take positions on this and any amendments in the fall. To date, the Legislative Committee discussed the proposal and supported the Council’s sponsorship of the legislation.

Members also will have the opportunity to discuss the proposals at the 2016 NCAA Convention in January. Given the significance of the issue, the topic is expected to garner serious attention and remains an area of intense membership focus.

The Council will cast final votes in April 2016. If adopted, new academic misconduct rules would be effective in August 2016.