Legal issue involving education leaders. Essay Example

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A Legal Issue Involving an Education Leader: Humzy-Hancock

A Legal Issue Involving an Education Leader: Humzy-Hancock

An education leader is defined as a “professional and pragmatic person capable of setting a direction and goals for his or her school” (Michael, 1994, p. 1). An educational leader can also be a moral or social agent in an education setting (Michael, 1994). Based on the foregoing definitions, this paper will refer to the dean in the faculty of law as an education leader. Usually, the academic dean is charged with overseeing the affairs and records of the students in a specific faculty and is also a decision-maker in that same faculty. Sensing (2008) identifies the deans’ roles more clearly by noting that effective deans are “cultural representatives, communicators, managers, planners/analysts, and advocates” (p.7). In other words, deans are leaders in their respective education settings. This paper will analyze the impact that Humzy-Hancock — a 2007 court case involving the dean of the faculty of law at Griffith University and a former law student Nicolas Humzy-Hancock. Before delving into the case details, it is important to indicate that the faculty of law dean was not the main respondent in the case; however, he was a key witness in the case as revealed by Cumming (2009).

While studying at Griffith University, Nicolas Humzy-Hancock was penalized thrice for plagiarism. After completing his law degree at the University, Humzy-Hancock applied for the position of a solicitor in Queensland’s Supreme Court. His application was unsuccessful because he was unable to obtain endorsement from the Queensland Legal Practitioners Admission Board. The board cited the plagiarism offenses that Humzy-Hancock has ostensibly committed at Griffith as the main reason they had refused to endorse him for the solicitor position. Humzy-Hancock filed a case in court where he argued that although he was disciplined thrice by Griffith for alleged academic misconduct, he was not (at least to a great extent) guilty of the same (Cumming, 2009).

During the case proceedings, the dean of the faculty of law testified and indicated that in one of the plagiarism instances, Humzy-Hancock’s work resembled that of another student, hence suggesting that there was collusion between the two. Specifically, the dean noted “There was an identical paragraph in the assignments, and …the conclusions in each assignment were virtually identical” (Cumming, 2009, p. 98). In his defense, Humzy-Hancock argued that although he had collaborated with a colleague when preparing for the school assignment, they did not collude when writing their respective assignments. Additionally, Humzy-Hancock claimed that the university had not stated that student collaboration when preparing to work on an assignment constituted any misconduct (Cumming, 2009).

The second alleged plagiarism incident against Humzy-Hancock involved failing to cite his sources as used in an assignment correctly (Cumming, 2009). In his defense, Humzy-Hancock stated that at the time of writing and submitting his law assignment, he had to balance between work and school commitments, and also had to endure family disturbances. He thus argued that he had not paid enough attention to the work, and as such, had overlooked acknowledgments, which he would have given to different authors of the work he had used. The third alleged plagiarism case was related to failure by Humzy-Hancock to cite and reference his sources in a take-home exam properly (Cumming, 2009). Additionally, he is alleged to have wrongly referenced some of the sources he used.

When the court ruled on Mr. Humzy-Hancock’s case, it argued that under the policies established by Griffith University, he was not guilty of plagiarism. The court noted that although academic misconduct had been alleged on Humzy-Hancock’s part, none of those allegations had been proven. Further, the court noted that proving guilt in an alleged plagiarism case requires the university (or any other defendant) to have shown that the complainant (in this case Humzy-Hancock) had the intention of passing other people’s original works as own.

The Humzy-Hancock case had an impact on education because it underscored the importance of having clear academic policies. For example, Humzy-Hancock argued that he wasn’t aware that collaborating in an assignment constituted cheating. He was right; Griffith had not explicitly warned students against collaborating when working on assignments. As Cumming (2009) further notes, the Humzy-Hancock case underscored the need to make a “distinction between negligent and dishonest conduct” and also ensure that the procedures for establishing guilt (or the lack thereof) in educational institutions are clear (p. 105).

Importance of selected topic to this writer’s professional work

The Humzy-Hancock case is important to my professional work because I now understand the need to provide all details regarding the course and the assignments in the course. Such provision of details is important in order to avoid instances where the students can allege not having known what is expected of them. For example, at the start of every term, I indicate what is permissible for every assignment. Some assignments can be done in groups while others cannot.

The Humzy-Hancock case is a clear illustration of how fuzzy areas in the policies set in an institution of learning can be misinterpreted. The case, therefore, provides lessons for deans and other educational leaders in universities to re-evaluate their respective policies and rewrite whatever policies need to be re-written for purposes of enhancing clarity. The Humzy-Hancock case also offers a lesson regarding the need to prove something rather than just letting it fizzle off. For example, if the dean of the faculty of law at Griffith University had clearly investigated the alleged plagiarism against Humzy-Hancock, the protracted court battle could have been avoided.

Influence on this writer’s professional practice

As indicated elsewhere in this paper, the Humzy-Hancock case is a lesson on the importance of having clear policies in an institution. Based on the foregoing, this writer will make an effort to identify weak policy areas in his profession (especially at an institutional level) in order to suggest ways of strengthening the same. Additionally, this writer has understood the need to provide clear instructions and expectations to students, and going forward, will apply them in his classes.


Cumming, J.J. (2009). Where courts and academe converge: findings of fact or academic judgment. Australia & New Zealand Journal of Law & Education, 12(1), 97-108.

Humzy-Hancock, Re [2007] QSC 34, 1.

Michael, C. (1994). Educational leaders: professionals or moral-social agents. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans, April 4-8, pp. 1-13.

Sensing, T. (2008). The role of the academic dean. Restoration Quarterly, 5-10.