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DIII committee recommends academic misconduct changes

Proposal mirrors actions taken by Divisions I and II

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

At a meeting last week in Indianapolis, the Division III Interpretations and Legislation Committee voted to recommend legislation that would recognize academic misconduct and impermissible athletics 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,” said Shana Levine, committee chair and director of physical education and athletics at Lewis & Clark College. “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. The proposal will be reviewed by the Division III Management and Presidents Councils in coming months and, if supported, would be part of the legislative slate at next year’s NCAA Convention.

The potential new rules would define academic misconduct in two distinct ways. If the incident violates an institution’s academic misconduct policies and involved an altered or fabricated transcript, an institutional staff or booster, or a student-athlete competing based on erroneous declaration of eligibility, it would be considered an academic misconduct violation.

Conversely, if the incident did not violate the school’s academic misconduct policy, it would still be considered an academic misconduct 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; it 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 an academic misconduct 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.

The Division III Committee on Infractions will work to formulate potential reprimands relevant to these violations. While sanctions could be applied to student-athletes, Interpretations and Legislation Committee members felt 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.

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

Other actions

  • The Interpretations and Legislation Committee examined rules that frequently cause consternation on their campuses in hopes of finding consensus for potential legislative changes or educational initiatives. Those areas included, but were not limited to, prize money and promotional activities; transportation, parking and meals rules related to official and unofficial visits; medical hardships; transfer regulations; and distributing athletics apparel. The committee will narrow its focus on potential changes in these areas and determine next steps in future meetings.

    “Recognizing that we need to take a step back and take a bigger picture look at things from time to time is important for the division,” Levine said.
  • The committee issued an interpretation regarding student-athletes who sign agreements to practice and compete — without pay — with an amateur team before initial collegiate enrollment. The committee determined such agreements do not implicate the organized competition regulations, so student-athletes should not be charged with a season of participation and are not required to serve an academic year in residence.