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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Colleges Rethink Honor Codes Amidst Rampant Cheating

Middlebury LogoInside Higher Ed, The Proctor Is In:

Only 100 or so colleges maintain honor codes, which are thought to bolster integrity and trust among professors and students by involving the latter in the creation and enforcement of academic standards. When a campus culture values open and frequent discussion about when and why cheating is socially unacceptable, the thinking goes (and some research shows), students are less likely to flout the rules – and more likely to report their peers who do.

Except when they aren’t. Most traditional honor codes allow for unproctored exams, where the professor leaves the room and students are expected to report any cheating they observe. (Some even let students take the exam wherever they choose.) But the system is not working out so well at Middlebury College, where faculty members in economics will proctor their exams this spring semester.

The decision follows a not-exactly-glowing review of the state of Middlebury’s honor code, which found that peer reporting across the board “is largely nonexistent.”

The Middlebury Campus lamented the shift in an editorial, calling it “a shameful reminder of a broken system” and questioning why no students or professors are protesting the decision or pressing the importance of the honor code.

“The honor code is a part of the Middlebury brand. We love to point to the honor code as a demonstration of our integrity and the type of community we come from,” the editorial board wrote. “What, then, does it say about our future selves if we cannot expect integrity from our community members now?” ...

At Haverford College, meanwhile, reports of cheating have piled up to the point where students on the Honor Council, which administers the code and holds trials for violators, have been resigning due to an unmanageable workload. However, most violators there are being turned in by professors, the Haverford Clerk reported. The college is considering ways to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the council.

In recent years, more colleges have developed “modified honor codes,” which typically make unproctored exams optional and do not require students to report cheating they observe. To specifically address the peer proctoring issue, the Middlebury review suggests exploring a modified honor code that would not entail the student reporting requirement. ...

After 125 Harvard University students – 2 percent of the undergraduate population – were suspended for collaborating inappropriately on an economics exam in September 2012, campus officials floated the idea of an honor code to help combat cheating. The idea was not unprecedented on the campus, but after the incident prompted considerable public fallout, administrators got to work developing a code.

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An honor code requires a sense of honor, meaning putting doing the right thing above getting ahead. A sense of honor no longer pervades our society, as illustrated by Obama's knowing lies about, 'if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor,' along with a press that did not expose that as a lie.

C. S. Lewis warned of this when he wrote in The Abolition of Man: "In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful."

Posted by: Michael W. Perry | Feb 25, 2014 2:45:19 PM

A better example of a lie would be "weapons of mass destruction in Iraq."

Posted by: To Mr. Perry | Feb 25, 2014 5:15:37 PM

The Honor Code works at the Military Academies because it is enforced. Lie, cheat, or steal, or tolerate those who do and you are expelled. There is an immediate consequence no matter how many accomplices you have. You are all gone. Poof.

Posted by: 30-year Prof. | Feb 26, 2014 4:55:41 PM

Quote: "A better example of a lie would be "weapons of mass destruction in Iraq."

No that's an illustration of the utter incompetence of our press and perhaps of the cluelessness of our politicians in both parties.

All confuse weapons of mass destruction with exotic weapons of mass destruction such as nuclear, chemical, or biological. Saddam didn't have the latter, although in his folly he was doing his best to convince the world he did.

But Saddam did have lots of WMDs. Virtually every country does. They're simply devices that kill a lot of people. The IEDs that killed our troops after the war were WMDs.

Saddam's real problem is that he was a chronic invader. That's why he should have been removed at the end of the Gulf War. That's why the Clinton administration had a policy of working for regime change in Iraq.

Keep in mind something about me. I'm not well-informed in the sense that I can repeat all the proper things to be said. Much of conventional wisdom is stupid and deserves to be condemned as such. That includes the folly of honor codes in an age without honor.

And it includes silly talking points about the Iraq War. No one with any sense fretted about the possibility of even exotic WMDs. There's a host of countries with far worse. Both Indian and Pakistan have nukes. It's the hands that had weapons of any sort. Saddam's problem was that he kept invading his neighbors. Only his stupidity kept Kuwait from being a global disaster. A cleverer man would have rolled on into Saudi Arabia and the world's oil needs could not tolerate a war there.

Never mind what the NY Times says. That's why he had to be taken out.

Besides it is grossly unfair to accuse someone of lying when they were going with the best intelligence we had at the time about those exotics. False accusations also illustrate the decline of honor in our society.

Posted by: Michael W. Perry | Feb 26, 2014 5:51:12 PM