Does Harvard Want One?


When A. Michael Spence was a student at Princeton in the '60s, the school's honor code obliged him to turn in his classmates if they cheated.

Now Spence, the dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, wants to see if Harvard could benefit from an honor code, too. Toward that end, he commissioned a study last spring.

Spence stressed that the study is for informational purposes only, and that he has no plans to implement any new system. But he did say, however, that having an honor code might be less expensive than the current set-up, because it would save thousands of dollars Harvard pays exam proctors.

Besides saving money, Spence said that an honor system might be more flexible as well, because Harvard's current system does not make allowances for people who cannot take exams on certain days.

And so, for the past three months Secretary to the Faculty John R. Marquand and his summer assistant, Brian R. Melendez '86, compiled data from the 68 colleges that responded to the questionnaire. According to Melendez, about half of the responding colleges and universities had some form of honor code.

Marquand said the colleges responding to the study have honor systems ranging from those that bar plagiarism to those that consider it a violation to bounce a check. Harvard, Columbia, and Yale are the only Ivy League schools with no form of honor code. Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth, the University of Pennsylvania (which has proctored exams), and Spence's alma mater, Princeton, all have some type of honor code.

Spence said earlier this year that he would have to gauge campuswide opinion of both the current system and an honor system before he would even consider switching. Though the report compiled by Melendez and Marquand was completed early this week, Spence said earlier this year that it might be next spring before he takes a look at the report.

Dean of the College L. Fred Jewett '57 said that he feels student support for an honor system at Harvard would have to be overwhelming for him to favor making such a change.

And, asked earlier this week what he feels, Spence said he had "nothing to say right now."