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Spelling It Out

Division III works to define academic misconduct

Division III may soon update legislation relevant to academic misconduct, emulating recent changes made by Divisions I and II.

In a February meeting, the Division III Interpretations and Legislation Committee voted to recommend legislation that would recognize academic misconduct and impermissible academic assistance as violations separate from rules pertaining to extra benefits or unethical conduct.

“In Division III, academics are a core piece of our mission and values,” says Shana Levine, committee chair and director of physical education and athletics at Lewis & Clark. “Having academic misconduct outlined clearly in our bylaws is important.”

The proposal mirrors legislation first adopted by Division I in April 2016 and subsequently by Division II at the 2017 NCAA Convention. It will be reviewed by the Division III Management and Presidents Councils in coming months and, if endorsed, would be part of the legislative slate at next year’s NCAA Convention.

The concept also generated support at a recent Faculty Athletics Representatives Association meeting, says Chuck Brown, faculty athletics representative at Penn State-Behrend. The group lauded the emphasis the proposal places on academic codes of conduct at each campus. “I think they were supportive of it because it’s who we are in Division III,” Brown says.

The potential new rules would define academic misconduct in two distinct ways. An incident would be considered an academic misconduct violation if it violates an institution’s academic misconduct policies and involves any of the following: an altered or fabricated transcript, an institutional staff member or booster, or a student-athlete who competed based on erroneous declaration of eligibility.

Conversely, if an incident did not violate the school’s academic misconduct policy, it would still be considered a violation if all of the following criteria are met: Substantial academic assistance was provided or exceptions made; the student-athlete received something not generally available to the institution’s students; the assistance is not permissible per NCAA bylaws relevant to academic and other support services; it was provided by a current or former institutional employee or representative of athletics interests; and it results in certification of eligibility. If any of those criteria are not met, the occurrence would not be considered a violation.

Institutions would be required to have academic misconduct policies and procedures in place, and acts involving staff members or boosters that don’t result in fraudulent academic credit or transcripts could still constitute academic misconduct.

“I do think at a Division III institution, a president who sees an academic misconduct charge is going to take that more seriously,” Levine says. “That’s going to resonate in a way that an ethical misconduct charge may not.”

The Division III Committee on Infractions will work to formulate potential reprimands relevant to these violations. While sanctions could be applied to student-athletes, some administrators feel the proposal’s primary benefit would be creating a mechanism to uncover patterns of academic misconduct at the institutional level, enabling schools and the NCAA to react accordingly.

“That’s the real important piece for us,” Brown says. “What happens if there’s an issue with others on campus? And I think that’s what this is going to do. It supports the academic missions of the school.”

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Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.

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