Office of Undergraduate Academic Integrity hires staff, launches new faculty initiative
The Office of Undergraduate Academic Integrity has named two new staff members as the department moves to increase student and faculty support within Virginia Tech’s honor code system.
The new team members — Brianne Merchant, assistant director for academic integrity, and Joe Wilder, coordinator of undergraduate academic integrity — will help facilitate honor code panels and support a new initiative called the Faculty Liaison Program.
“Brianne and Joe are outstanding additions to our department,” said Kara Latopolski, director of the Office of Undergraduate Academic Integrity. “They’ve already greatly enhanced our ability to provide services to students as well as support for faculty.”
The new hires come as the department introduces the Faculty Liaison Program, which places faculty mentors for academic integrity in the College of Engineering and College of Science. The program creates a point of contact for faculty with a fellow member of their college with experience reporting honor code violations and the panel process, said Latopolski.
Merchant, who will be working with the Faculty Liaison Program, arrived at Virginia Tech after receiving a master’s degree in higher education administration from Florida International University. There she also served as a graduate assistant for the school’s Office of Student Conduct and Academic Integrity.
Merchant said she sees this position as an opportunity to help students through what can be a difficult, but valuable, experience.
“Often, this is the first time students are facing real consequences for their decisions, but I try to remind them they’re in a safe environment where there’s support available such as tutoring, training modules, and counseling,” said Merchant. “Hopefully, this can serve as a good life lesson.”
Wilder also brings experience in higher educationto the position, having working in housing and residence life at Radford University and here on the Blacksburg campus. He is a Virginia Tech alumnus with bachelor's degrees in history and political sciences and received a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction in 2010.
“Coming from Virginia Tech, there’s value added to your degree in knowing that our faculty, staff, and students take academic integrity seriously,” said Wilder. “But an important takeaway is that our honor code panels are intended to be an educational process. We hope these students will be able to look back and see they had a chance to be successful after the experience.”
Virginia Tech’s undergraduate honor system is one of the oldest in the United States and has been in continuous operation since 1908. Throughout its history, the system has been led by students and operates with administrative oversight from the Office of Undergraduate Academic Integrity.
All university undergraduate course syllabi are required to refer to the university honor code and highlight available resources, including the following statement: “As a Hokie, I will conduct myself with honor and integrity at all times. I will not lie, cheat, or steal, nor will I accept the actions of those who do.”
Faculty are also encouraged to have their students complete the Academic Integrity Success Module, available in Canvas.
Contested cases of academic misconduct are heard by an honor code panel made up of three undergraduate students and two faculty members. Sanctions can include suspension, expulsion, or receiving a "F*" for the course, denoting a failing grade due to an honor code violation. Students can petition to have the asterisk removed after completing the Academic Integrity Education Program.
This semester more than 100 students and 60 faculty members have volunteered to serve on panel hearings for honor code violations.
More information about Virginia Tech’s honor code, along with resources for students and faculty, can be found at the Office of Undergraduate Academic Integrity. If you are a faculty member and are interested in the office giving a presentation to your class, please submit your request.