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More wrinkles out of IPP
| One imagines that Vice-Principal (Research) Pierre Bélanger probably breathed a huge sigh of relief after last week's session of Senate.
For over a year, during different sessions of Senate, Bélanger has been busy arguing the case for, defending his position on and negotiating a new Intellectual Property Policy for McGill. Last week, Senate voted to accept the most recent version of that policy.
As a result of the debate at the previous session of Senate, Bélanger made some modifications to the policy that seemed to deal with the major remaining concerns of those who had reservations about the proposed IPP.
The policy will now make it explicit that, although ownership of an invention is joint between the University and the inventor, the decision to refrain from commercializing remains with the inventor.
Also, while there will be an obligation for the inventor to work with the Office of Technology Transfer in developing a commercialization plan, the final choice between OTT and other commercialization options rests with the inventor.
Bélanger added another provision, one that would spell out McGill's rights should it make a major investment in developing expensive new multimedia approaches to teaching. The vice-principal believes that such investments should result in McGill having more say over how that technology is used than it would in the case of more standard course materials developed by instructors for their own academic purposes.
The plan will now go back to Bélanger and a Senate workgroup chaired by economics professor Myron Frankman for final revisions, and then to the Legal Adviser's Office to ensure that the policy's wording is consistent.
The Board of Governors will be the last hurdle.
Senate also received notice that the board will soon be voting to change the rules governing how candidates for honorary degrees are treated.
In the wake of a controversial vote against one candidate last year that was widely leaked to the press, it is proposed that from now on, it will take a vote of at least one-third of Senate members to scotch a proposed honorary degree. Previously, seven Senate votes could kill the proposal.
Dean of Students Rosalie Jukier presented her annual report from the Committee on Student Discipline.
Covering the period from September 1999 to August 2000, Jukier said 98 cases of violations of the Code of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures were reported to her office.
Most dealt with academic offences. Thirty-five cases of plagiarism and 23 cases of cheating were investigated by faculty disciplinary officers. In all, 73 alleged academic offences were looked into. Of these, 25 resulted in exonerations, the rest in punishments ranging from admonishments, to being placed on conduct probation, to failing exams and courses.
Seventeen cases examined by disciplinary officers dealt with non-academic offences, most concerning physical abuse, harassment or dangerous activity. Three students were excluded from campus as a result of their actions.
Ten cases, deemed particularly serious or difficult, were referred to the Committee on Student Discipline, comprised of three faculty and two students. Three students were expelled as a result of these investigations.
Jukier noted that cases involving physical abuse, while still rare, seem to be on the rise.
Associate Vice-Principal (Teaching Programs) Martha Crago expressed her concern over three cases involving students who left the University before facing disciplinary action over their offences. She worried that, because there is nothing on their McGill transcripts that indicates that their conduct here was a source of concern, these students might be able to go on to other institutions "just as we have inherited [problem students] from other places."
Jukier noted that the only disciplinary notation generally added to transcripts involves expulsion. While recognizing Crago's concerns, Jukier said that the cases in question were "very special" and involved "the police and restraining orders. We felt it was best that the police dealt with these cases."
She added that if the former students required their transcripts, they would have to contend with McGill again in order to receive them.
Medicine professor Andrew Bateman wondered why there was a range of punishments for cheating and plagiarism and why students found guilty aren't all just automatically failed. "It seems to me that cheating is cheating."
Jukier responded that every case is unique and that disciplinary officers in the various faculties are given leeway to determine what they believe is the most appropriate course of action to take.
Law professor Richard Janda remarked that the reported cases of suspected cheating seem low, given what he has witnessed for himself over the years in his own courses.
Jukier agreed. "The real numbers are underreported." She said that studies done at other universities indicate that there is almost certainly far more cheating going on at McGill. One problem is that many professors are reluctant to report such cases, preferring to deal with it by themselves. In presentations to new professors and new deans, Jukier regularly makes the case for reporting such offences to her office.
She said that the Committee on Student Affairs is looking into better methods for promoting the reasons why cheating and plagiarism are wrong, as well as better enforcement techniques. McGill has also joined the Centre for Academic Integrity, a grouping of universities that share an interest in battling cheating and plagiarism.
Educational and counselling psychology professor Bruce Shore suggested that McGill should keep instructors who have reported their suspicions better informed about how the case is proceeding.
Teachers worry that the case may not get resolved until the end of their course, resulting in "a socially uncomfortable situation in the classroom" if the teacher has to continue to deal with a suspected student. "We have to bring the whistle-blowers into the loop in a respectful way."