Cheating in examinations is a typical college sin; by the attitude of the undergraduate body of any college towards it, the moral spirit of that college can be very largely determined. It is not a prevalent habit at Harvard even where it is possible--as in hour examinations and in shorter tests--and when it does occur, the offender is usually properly discountenanced. Yet there could be a great improvement, both in the honesty of certain undergraduates in the class room and in the feeling of the College at large toward whatever dishonesty there is in tests and examinations and in the writing of theses.
As long as there are proctors in the examination-room there will always be a certain number of morally or mentally incapable men who will maintain that they have a perfect right to cheat if the proctor does not see them. The proctor is there to keep them from cheating, but if he is not quick enough to stop them they have used a legitimate right, they say. If the honor system were instituted at Harvard it would immediately change the present individual feeling against dishonesty, to an irresistible public spirit against it, as it has at Princeton and Williams and Amherst and other places where it has been used so successfully. The degenerates who are willing to cheat under the present system would have to bow to the opinion of the men with whom they are working--in most cases they would be willing to do so if it occurred to them as a matter of honor--and the undergraduate classroom morality would be raised accordingly. Such a public opinion as would be raised against cheating in examinations by the introduction of the honor system would, we believe, extend at the same time to the matter of theses: It would not be a negative feeling against dishonesty, but a righteous indignation which would cost an offender his social position if not his place as a member of the University.
It might he urged that Harvard is so large that such a public opinion would not have the unity and strength which now obtains at some of the smaller colleges. But that the introduction of the honor system would create a strong and active feeling against cheating is inevitable. Such a feeling would have to grow during the years, but it would, we believe, finally become one of Harvard's grandest traditions, and a unifying element in the College for all time.