Faculty Weigh In on Potential Honor Code

The week after the Committee on Academic Integrity unveiled its proposal for a student honor code, several members of the faculty remained divided on whether the new code would foster a culture of greater academic integrity among the undergraduate body.

As proposed, the five-part honor code would create a judicial board populated by students and faculty to hear academic dishonesty cases. It would also require students to write a “declaration of integrity” statement on assignments and exams.

The proposal does not require students to report other students for violating the honor code, a point that drew criticism from some faculty.

“An honor code presupposes that everyone’s honor is affronted with one person’s violation,” government professor Harvey C. Mansfield ’53 wrote in an email to The Crimson. “It won’t work unless everyone is expected to turn in a violator.”

Robert H. Bates, a professor of government and of African and African American Studies, questioned the fact that despite the institution of such an honor code, faculty would still proctor exams under the proposal.


“I think it doesn’t add up,” Bates said. “Either we are behaving honorably or cheating, and if we’re behaving honorably, why do we need faculty there? If we’re cheating and we need faculty there, then we don’t really have an honor code that’s working.”

Bates, however, said including students in the board that hears academic dishonesty cases is “definitely worth a try” because the disciplinary process might benefit from student voice.

Government professor Stephen D. Ansolabehere agreed that having students on the board would “probably be better for everybody involved.”

“My experience is that a lot of committees at the University level have student involvement, and that student involvement is really instructive and very constructive because it gives us a perspective of how the students see things,” Ansolabehere said.

But according to Mansfield, having students on the judicial board would actually allow administrators to share “responsibility for the dirty work of punishment.”

“Administrators like the idea because it shifts the burden onto others,” Mansfield wrote.

Mansfield also questioned whether an honor code is fully compatible with a campus culture that he says emphasizes “free choice.”

“Do Harvard students really know what their honor is?” Mansfield wrote. “With free choice a student is not responsible for other [people’s] choices. With honor, he or she is responsible.”

The proposal, Mansfield pointed out, mentions building a “culture of trust,” but not a culture of honor. With an “atmosphere of free choice,” Mansfield questioned how anyone could trust others’ choices.

Bates, too, differentiated between a culture of trust and a culture of honor that should be built.


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