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April Vote to Decide Honor Code at HBS

Harvard Business School students will vote next month on the school's first-ever honor code, a draft of which was released this week.

The school's Honor Committee drafted the Honor System to combat what some perceive as ethical problems among business students.

One such problem came in 1992, when the Wall Street Journal reported that a candidate for office in the school's Finance Club was accused of stuffing the ballot boxes.

The result of two years of work, the Honor System was created to curb such problems and to respond to the school's increasing emphasis on principled conduct, said Charles T. Lelon '86, a second-year business student and vice chair of the Honor Committee.

"The Business School has embarked on an increasing emphasis on values and the importance of ethical issues in business," Lelon said.

Goldston Professor of Business Administration Henry B. Reiling, faculty liaison to the committee, said students need clear standards for proper conduct.

"It came out of students wanting more clarification in the area of ethics," Reiling said. "[And] once you have the norms worked out you need some procedures to enforce that."

The proposal includes both original work of the Honor Committee and elements of programs at other institutions,including Stanford University and the U.S.Military Academy.

It consists of three components, according tothe draft: Credo, Code and Procedure. The Credo isa statement of general principles; the Codeoutlines proper behavior; the Procedure creates aprocess by which specific cases of violation canbe investigated.

Under the system, students accused of abusingthe code will face investigation and a possibleformal accusation and trial before a jury offellow students.

Lelon said the Credo portion of the system hadbeen discussed for a decade and was approved bythe faculty several years ago.

Students also approved the Credo in themid-'80s, but only on a third attempt after afirst student vote lacked a quorum and a secondvote defeated it. In a poll of 938 studentsconducted by the Honor Committee two years ago, 90percent affirmed that the Business School needed ahonor code.

"The student body voted to have an honor systemto ensure that the business school community was acommunity of integrity and that the value of theeducational experience and the degree could bepreserved," Lelon said.

The Honor Committee is now organizing focusgroups to gather student reactions, he said.

The referendum on the Honor System is scheduledfor April 22