Faculty Approves College’s First Honor Code, Likely Effective Fall 2015

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Senior Lecturer in Computer Science David J. Malan ’99 also voiced concerns, saying that the favored “cultural interventions and new social norms over new policies and structures.”

Despite these concerns, Harris said that research into honor codes shows that they are effective in lowering rates of cheating at schools that implement them.

“It is critical that we move in [accordance] with the research,” he said.

For the second time this semester at a Faculty meeting, Lewis asked Harris whether or not the affirmation of integrity would be mandatory or voluntary and, if it were mandatory, what “sanctions” students would face for refusing to make the affirmation.

Although Harris said at February's meeting that the affirmation would be required, he did not explain how students might be reprimanded if they chose not to make the affirmation at either April’s or Tuesday’s meeting.

The honor code will not include a requirement that students report instances of cheating that they observe. In addition, under the new policy, exams will continue to be proctored.

College students, while unsure about the implications of the Honor Code, expressed their support for the approved legislation Tuesday evening.

“I don’t know much about it, but I think an honor code is a good idea to have a set of guidelines,” Alex B. Miller ’15 said. “It’s good to understand an institution’s moral compass.”

Miller added that the student voice on the Honor Board seems to be a positive change. “I think it’s a good idea to share the students’ perspective and not have discussions be one-sided,” he said.

Stephanie Fuller ’16 said that the effects of the policy are not yet clear. “For the people who are determined to get the grade no matter what, it might not stop them,” she said. “I think it might be helpful for students in moments of weakness.”

For Caitlin M. Watson ’14, the new policy is a worthwhile step. “I know it’s worked at other Ivy League schools, so it’s definitely worth a try here,” she said.

The new policy is the product of four years of work by the Academic Integrity Committee, which was first convened in 2010, but accelerated its efforts to draft an honor code on the heels of the Government 1310 cheating scandal in the fall of 2012.

The committee originally presented its first honor code draft to the Faculty last April. That draft outlined a five-point proposal, which included a number of stipulations that are not included in the finalized version of the honor code policy approved on Tuesday.

In its first version, the honor code included a “declaration of integrity” to be written on all assignments, projects, and final exams. In addition, the Committee suggested that students may be asked to make a similar affirmation upon matriculation to the College.

Although the student role in Harvard College Honor Board marks a significant change in the school’s policy, a Student-Faculty Judicial Board currently exists to hear cases that fall outside of the domain of the Faculty. This body, however, has heard just one case since its inception in 1987, according to the Ad Board’s website.

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