Committee To Propose First-Ever Honor Code

Five-Point Honor Code Would Include New Judiciary Board

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The Committee on Academic Integrity will propose a five-point honor code, including the creation of a “newly designed” Student/Faculty Judicial Board that, for the first time, would give students a voice in adjudicating academic dishonesty cases, according to a report obtained by The Crimson late Sunday.

Populated by both students and faculty members, the new Board would handle exclusively academic cases and remain distinct from the current Administrative Board, which would continue to hear all non-academic integrity cases and some academic dishonesty cases. Students accused of academic cheating would be allowed to choose which board they wanted to hear their case.

The March 26 report, which will likely be delivered to the faculty by Dean of Undergraduate Education Jay M. Harris at the regular faculty meeting Tuesday, signals the first major step toward overhauling Harvard’s academic integrity policies.

The report, nearly three years in the making, comes near the end of a school year marred by Harvard’s largest cheating scandal in recent memory.

As outlined in the four-page report, the new honor code, Harvard’s first in its 376-year history, calls for a wide-ranging set of protocols intended “to refocus the community on promoting academic integrity.” In addition to the new judicial body, it specifically prescribes a “statement of values” to govern the intellectual community, a “declaration of integrity” to be written on assignments and exams, minor protocol changes for exams, and the publication of more easily accessible disciplinary sanctions online.

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“The statement and the subsequent components of the honor code aim to emphasize that the most effective learning is predicated on trust between students and teachers and often depends on collaboration among them,” the report reads. “The honor code and the culture that surrounds it should signal to students that Harvard values learning, intellectual inquiry, and intellectual exploration more than it values the external trappings of ‘success.’”

Chaired by Harris, the Committee on Academic Integrity is composed of students, faculty, and administrators. Harvard officials commissioned the group in fall 2010 to investigate Harvard’s policies and protocols pertaining to academic honesty. The committee’s work came under the microscope after Harvard’s announcement last August that it was investigating roughly 125 students suspected of cheating on a Government 1310 take-home exam. Administrators announced this past February that more than half of the accused students had been required to temporarily withdraw from the College.

Though faculty will not vote on the proposals Tuesday, the report will likely begin a community-wide discussion. When or how students outside the Committee on Academic Integrity will play into that discussion is uncertain, but the report indicates that students already on the committee will play a role in finalizing the details of the proposals, including the new Student/Faculty Judicial Board, already put forth.

Technically, Harvard already has a Student Faculty Judicial Board that is partially composed of students and designed to hear cases that fall outside the domain of the faculty, but it has heard just one case since its inception in 1987.

A 2009-2010 review of the Ad Board raised the possibility of creating a distinct judicial board that, like the newly proposed Student/Faculty Judicial Board, would allow students being investigated to choose whether to have their case considered by the Ad Board or by a hybrid student board.

That report’s recommendation did not gain traction at the time, and as recently as November, Dean of the College Evelynn M. Hammonds said Harvard was not yet ready for such a body.

“When that suggestion was first made, I said, ‘We really have to understand how that would work and how it works in practice at other institutions,’” Hammonds said in November. “I still don’t have a complete picture of that, nor what benefits it would bring to us. I think it just needs a lot more research and study.”

Harvard administrators could not be reached for comment late Sunday.

Harvard is currently one of only two Ivy League institutions that does not allow students at least the option of having their case heard by disciplinary board including student members.

In addition to an honor code, the report also calls for more general “cultural interventions,” which would articulate and reinforce ethical standards at various points throughout a student’s undergraduate career, including in a writing placement test before incoming freshmen ever arrive on campus. The report cites a review of University materials on integrity and suggests possible discussion points during Opening Days and Sophomore Orientation, among other points in time.

The final set of proposals included in the report prescribes the creation of an “assignment taxonomy” for faculty members who want examples of model assignments and grading rubrics. It also offers general suggestions on how individual departments might better incorporate integrity discussions into their fields.

—Staff writer Nicholas P. Fandos can be reached at nicholasfandos@college.harvard.edu. Follow him on Twitter @npfandos.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

CORRECTION: April 3, 2013

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the Committee on Academic Integrity’s honor code proposal would make the Student/Faculty Judicial Board the sole voice in academic dishonesty cases. In fact, the proposed honor code would allow students to choose whether to have their cases heard by the proposed student-populated board or by the existing Administrative Board, which is made up of faculty and administrators.

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