A response in defense of Union’s honor code

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By Robert Baker

“Our school does not have a real honor system. So why have it at all?” Bryan Grover ‘14 asked this arresting question in a column from the Oct. 18 issue of the Concordiensis. As chair of the committee that initiated Union’s honor code let me express my appreciation to Mr. Grover for raising this question, and also for voicing his objection to writing the honor code statement (“I affirm that I have carried out my academic endeavors with full academic honesty”) on exams. Grover remarks, “This statement is supposed to be a new step toward ensuring that my peers and I don’t cheat…I wonder how many cheating students actually think twice about it due to this statement?”

I am happy to assure Mr. Grover that Union’s honor code is “real” precisely because it was not imposed on students by the administration and the faculty.  Engineering students proposed an honor code; a student, faculty and administration committee drafted it and the Student Forum and Union faculty approved the final draft. It took a great deal of time to put this code together, but in the end we have a communal code accepted by the entire campus community.

Students’ personal affirmations, their promise to respect the code of academic conduct, puts the “honor” in honor code. Grover suggests that personal affirmations, signatures, promises and the like are irrelevant. However, the evidence is that when colleges introduce a modern honor code, i.e. a student-faculty-drafted-and-approved code of conduct, enforced by a student-majority honor council and affirmed in a pledge, cheating at that institution decreases by about one-third.

Grover also complains that he hasn’t noticed a difference in Union’s academic climate. His claim is belied by the fact that he and I are discussing an honor code and the importance of academic integrity in the Concordiensis—a discussion notably absent from the Concordy before students and faculty began working on an honor code. Had Grover been accused of breaching academic integrity he would have noticed a major difference in the academic climate because the accusation against him would now be heard by a student majority honor council, chaired by a student, and they would weigh the evidence of whether he breached the code.

Union’s honor code has been in operation for less than 100 days. We are just starting! Give us a little more time, Mr. Grover, and you and every other student on campus will soon appreciate that Union is now one of the select 100 American colleges with an honor code.

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