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Faculty Voice Few Opinions During Honor Code Discussion

Faculty Members Also Discuss New Policies for Online Courses at First Meeting

By Dev A. Patel and Steven R. Watros, Crimson Staff Writers

Members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences offered little feedback on a draft of what could be the College’s first-ever honor code at their monthly meeting Tuesday, after Dean of Undergraduate Education Jay M. Harris asked to table discussion of a requirement that students sign an affirmation of integrity on all academic work.

Harris’s comments, which elicited just three questions from members of the faculty, centered on the benefits of student engagement with academic integrity, while refraining from voicing a strong opinion against or in favor of one of the most controversial sections of the draft.

“I do want to stress that everything that we’re proposing here, with one the product of a lot of research,” Harris said, singling out the integrity declaration on each piece of written academic work. Harris, chair of the Academic Integrity Committee that drafted the code, said that the committee chose to include  the line because other schools tended to incorporate a similar requirement in their own code, and not due to research backing the potential efficacy of the stipulation.

In lieu of formal discussion, Harris promised to create “some kind of consulting group” to assess the requirement.

Despite Harris’s attempt to table the discussion, one faculty member raised concerns about the requirement, noting that many other faculty members felt similarly about the affirmation.

Harris responded by saying that the University could not avoid legal structures.

Physics professor Melissa E. B. Franklin asked about an honor code for faculty members, raising the question of a partnership between students and their professors regarding academic integrity.

For his part, Harris said that he did not see virtue in asking faculty members to sign a similar oath on all the work they create, but that they should play a role.

“I think the compact is again in making sure that we are presenting our students with the best-thought-out prompts, problems, assignments, whatever they may be,” he said.

Harris noted that the Academic Integrity Committee began its work in the 2010-2011 academic year, stressing that it “was not in response to any specific case or scandal.” Still, to some, the committee’s efforts have taken on greater significance in the aftermath of the Government 1310 cheating scandal, the largest at Harvard in recent memory.

Tuesday’s meeting also included the presentation of an FAS committee report on professors’ rights with regards to the dissemination of their course materials online.

The report—which dates from 2000 and was written to inform the administration’s review of the policy on outside activities outside the University—comes in response to a memo released by administrators last February that raised concerns among faculty members regarding the ownership of their intellectual property related to teaching on the Internet.

James T. Engell ’73, the committee’s chair, said that faculty members should be allowed to continue to publish lecture videos and course materials online and explained that “ongoing engagement between a faculty member and students in any institution or organization outside of Harvard” should be considered as teaching a course elsewhere. In particular, Engell said that professors should retain the right to teach online courses on non-Harvard platforms.

“There should be a sense of competition in online education,” Engell said, though he noted that by choosing to teach on other platforms, faculty members would give up the ability to ask the University for help if copyright right issues arose.

Administrators, including FAS Dean Michael D. Smith, will use the committee’s recommendations to help update the existing policy, which University President Drew G. Faust called “outdated.”

“We don’t want to just hurry up and write a new set of policies that’s going to be outdated two weeks after we write it,” Faust said, adding that a policy will be University-wide.

Engell’s presentation was not the meeting’s first mention of online courses. History professor Charles S. Maier ’60, a former Crimson Editorial chair,  asked that Harvard’s edX administrators address comments by Stanford president John Hennessy in an interview with the Financial Times, where he pointed out flaws in online education.

—Staff writer Dev A. Patel can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @dev_a_patel.

—Staff writer Steven R. Watros can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @SteveWatros.

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