By Nicholas Brenn
In 2006, the improper collaboration between two mechanical engineering students revived the discussion of an honor code at Union College. They presented an argument in favor of a student governed academic jury, which they feel would have led to their exoneration from the accusation of academic dishonesty.
This case sparked six years of extensive research into the dynamic of honor code schools such as Haverford, Stanford, Skidmore, and Williams, the distribution and evaluation internal campus surveys, meetings with academic integrity organizations, and many more discussions and studies into the implementation of an honor code here at Union. Finally, in April of 2011, Student Forum voted to adopt the new academic honor code which was officially brought to bear at the beginning of last term. A sub-council of Union’s Academic Affairs Council, consisting of a group of student representatives, the Dean of Studies, the Associate Dean of Students, and professors from a variety of departments hope that the honor code will allow for a campus-wide acceptance of academically ethical standards.
Professor Oxley, a member of this sub-council, explains “at honor code schools, when you violate the honor code, you are also violating the community that has adopted the honor code.” She continues to describe that the goal for the academic honor code is to encourage the development of a “campus culture that focuses more on the value of academic honesty.” Data analyzed at honor code schools has showed that the ongoing discussion and communal understanding of an honest academic environment has reduced the number of cheating cases.
Instead of discussing academic dishonesty when an infraction occurs, the Honor Code Council hopes to stimulate discussion about academic integrity among faculty and students to prevent infractions from occurring in the first place. As Philosophy Professor Robert Baker describes last week in “A response in defense of Union’s honor code,” “Students’ personal affirmations, their promise to respect the code of academic conduct, puts the ‘honor’ in honor code.”
The complete adoption of the academic honor code by the campus community will take time, and Prof. Baker feels that “even at a small liberal arts college like Union, the transition to an honor code is challenging.”
The Honor Code Sub-Council is currently examining the effect of last Fall’s honor code adoption, and will gather data to help pinpoint the areas of the honor code that will need improvement or revision. Prof. Baker is excited to see the honor code develop at Union. He closes by saying, “I hope that by 2020, self-scheduled and un-proctored exams will be as commonplace at Union as they are today at Bryn Mawr and Haverford.”