minutia press.
We need an honor system like this one

Want to see how the Rice Honor code works? Take a look at this recent case . The student accussed himself/herself of cheating, and the professor agreed. So two letters were submitted. This was on a take-home test! The conclusion was the student got an F in the course and a one-semester suspension from the university.

Their system works because it is student-run. The students care about integrity and they can be much harsher than profs or deans when it comes to cheating and dealing out the punishment. They are also empowered by the university to take appropriate action when somebody is caught.

We need a student-run honor code system like the one at Rice. Houston's newspaper has been running a series on the honor code, and their most recent installment can be found here. Also it's instructive to look at the cases that have been processed by Rice's Honor Council . Click on the "Case Abstracts" to see what they've been up to.

Finally, here is an account of the process written by an honor council member (and a student from Wiess [residential] College, but then, nobody's perfect).


I agree that a student-run honor code system could be very beneficial. School-mandated policies often foster a "it's not cheating if you don't get caught" attitude, which in turn makes cheating so widespread that students who consider it important to do all their work themselves either have to give up the majority of their extracurricular life or settle for lower grades. Making students assume responsiblity for their actions regardless of whether or not they're "caught" is an important step in the right direction

Posted by: Lucas at May 8, 2004 9:45 AM

I completely agree. I almost ended up at Rice. One of the things that made it so attractive was the Honor Code.

Posted by: Ro at May 8, 2004 12:44 PM

I'm quite interested in this topic, and as such, have received a grant to study academic integrity in the engineering school this summer. I personally think that the vast majority of the school community- students, administrators, and professors- do not realize how wide-spread actions of questionable integrity are in our school. Furthermore, I feel that there is a vast gulf between what the faculty, administration, and student body reguard as "okay" and "not okay" in the realm of academic integrity. I will be conducting surveys, literature research, focus groups, and interviews this summer, and I welcome any and all input and participation in the study.

I find your ideas about an Honor Code interesting and have already looked at some articles written from MIT and Duke about such things. However, I will warn you that a large majority of the students and administrators I've spoken to thus far seem to be, at least initially, rather strongly against having such an Honor Code here at Wash U. Do you think that the faculty feel differently? How do you feel that the institution of an honor code would actually affect the way the average student thought about academic integrity?

Posted by: Miranda Todd at May 9, 2004 3:57 PM

Let me do a main post on this, just a sec .. and I'm glad you're looking into this! Ron

Posted by: rkc at May 9, 2004 8:42 PM

All I can say is, as a CS grader in St. Louis and now as a TA in Champaign, I have yet to go a semester without finding blatant cheating. While grading OS for Dr. Wong, there was one set of cheaters whose homeworks were "hold up to the light" identical. Here in Champaign, just last month I found two students who had turned in identical homeworks. Then, two days later when grading the next homework, guess which two student's homeworks were brought to me by the graders for being too similar? The one student was coming into office hours asking questions about the homework assignments on a regular basis. The homeworks weren't that hard, and with all of the help the student received, they should have been trivial. (Indeed, if you ask me enough, I'll practically work out the homework for you--I'm a pushover in office hours and some of the students have figured it out). Despite the needlessness of the cheating, the worst part is that the odds of punishment are essentially nil--the one dropped, is graduating, and has a job lined up. The other is a graduate student from another department on a fellowship--the other department has no incentive to take action against a complaint against free money from a professor from the CS dept.

I'm supposed to run Moss (http://www.cs.berkeley.edu/~aiken/moss.html) against the student's lab assignments. I really hope that I don't find any cheaters, but it is a hopeless hope. We've caught about a dozen students cheating on homeworks out of a class of aboud 60. Apparently the lab assignments were hard (if student performance is any indication), which would give a large incentive to cheat. On the other hand, I'd hope that the cheaters would have done better. Rather silly to cheat and still do poorly.

Of the dozen or so cheaters, most dropped the course shortly before we caught them out, and most are graduating this semester anyway. At least their cheating didn't do them any good, but it didn't hurt them either. It is rather disheartening to know that even if you find them, not much is likely to happen.

Posted by: Joe at May 10, 2004 11:10 AM

Isn't this really the problem? We would like a society to function with people doing the Right Thing even if they know if they get caught they won't get punished.

But that's very unrealistic and goes against human instincts. Unless there are dire consequences for getting caught *the first time*, then people will, and arguably should, cheat until caught the first time.

Posted by: rkc at May 11, 2004 7:21 AM

One argument that's made is that professors could make it easier to choose to do the Right Thing. What is your response to that?

For instance, instead of giving the same homework and exam problems every semester, some students say that if professors changed problems every semester, it would be easier to choose to do the Right Thing because the temptation wouldn't be there.

On the other side of this argument, of course, is the idea that students should choose to do the Right Thing, period, always, whether it's easy or hard.

Just, wondering what your response would be.

Posted by: Miranda at May 11, 2004 2:54 PM