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Friday, Nov 28, 2014

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Harris at his desk

Christopher Harris

Photographer: Kevin Riddell

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A Q&A with new Director of Judiciaries Christopher Harris

The director defines his role and has a message for students


Christopher Harris began as director of university judiciaries on Aug. 23, after leaving the position of assistant director of judicial affairs at Pennsylvania State University. He sat down Ohio University Compass to help OHIO students understand who he is and what his role as director entails.

Compass: Why did you decide to take this position?
Harris: I was an assistant director [at Pennsylvania State] for about five years, so I thought I gained a lot of good experience. But, it was sort of an entry-level position, and you reach a point in any profession where you feel like you’re ready to move on. This position intrigued me… and I investigated a little further and applied. And, I guess the rest is history.

How do you explain to students what you do as the director of judiciaries?
I’m responsible for the overall administration of the student conduct process. That’s everything from meeting with individual students to external constituencies like the City of Athens Police. I, basically, ensure that our process runs the way it’s supposed to run. Beyond that, I certainly am, for lack of a better term, the face of the office.

What part of this job do you find to be the most fulfilling?
For me, the most fulfilling part is the individual conversations that I have with students. I think they’re difficult conversations to have because the students are in a position where they’ve done something in violation to the University’s policies. But, the conduct that we see on paper is not indicative of who that student is as a person. So, what we try to do is get that student back on track and try to avoid a repeat of that behavior by engaging in some dialogue with them.

Do you ever find this job discouraging, considering the nature of it?
We see many students involved in a lot of the same behaviors. But, we’re treating each student as an individual, and each student brings something different to the table. So, while it’s discouraging to see the conduct continue, what is encouraging is that we actually sit down and meet with every student, which can lead to a deeper understanding of how they got to our office in the first place.

Is there one lasting goal that you’re hoping to accomplish in your time here?

I have a big huge goal and that is to see us be the premier Student Affairs Office, not just in the state of Ohio, but in the country. That’s a lofty goal, but I think I bring a lot to the table in relation to my experience.

How does the size and atmosphere at Ohio University compare to that of Pennsylvania State’s?
In a lot of ways, to me, it feels like a smaller campus. Considering the size and the number of students who go here, it is a very tight-knit community. In that respect, there’s a pretty big difference from Penn State.

Is there anything that you would like to add?

I always encourage students to drop in if they have questions about the process, and it doesn’t have to be a student who was sent in for a violation. We can always talk to folks and we encourage students to come by and talk with us.

Administrators stress importance of seeking academic help

A recent study of academic misconduct cases over a three-year period has Ohio University administrators pushing for more awareness of on and off-campus writing resources that are available for students.

A study found that the most common types of academic misconduct are plagiarism, lack of citations, and small groups copying from one another.

Director of University Judiciaries Chris Harris said a lot of these issues are avoidable.

"It can be as simple as contacting the faculty during their office hours and to become proactive and take ownership of their own education," said Harris, who is in his first year on campus. "Faculty are here to assist students in any way possible."

Harris said when time management becomes an issue, students tend to try and find the easy way out, which can lead to severe consequences.

"From a judiciary standpoint, academic misconduct is the first A-level violation found in the Student Code of Conduct, it is as significant as any other major offense," said Harris. "When you have instances where students are not honest, the integrity of an Ohio University degree is diminished."

Because academic misconduct is an A-level violation, suspension and expulsion are two consequences that must be explored in severe cases. In most instances, students receive a standard hearing and are assigned probation and other corrective behavior assignments such as reflective research papers.

Harris stresses that aside from the faculty, there are multiple resources that will help a student avoid ever being caught in a place where they feel the need to cheat.

The Student Writing Center at Alden Library is a fantastic resource for students who need help with citations and structuring their papers. For more information and to sign up for a 50 minute face-to-face help session. The center also offers 25-minute sessions on a first-come, first-serve basis on the second floor of Alden Library.

Harris said online citation engines such as the Purdue Online writing lab*, and the Son of Citation Machine* are other great resources for writing help.

"Ohio University is dedicated to implementing preventative measures to ensure student success and to avoid academic misconduct," said Harris. "The students must understand that it is up to them to use the resources provided."

-- By Kyle Raffel