Honor code a possibility

By John Budgick
Staff Writer
Additional Reporting
By David Maccar
News Editor

In response to the issue of prevalent plagiarism on college campuses, Rider has brought up for consideration the idea of an honor code, a formal set of standards to which individuals would be expected to adhere, standards that govern actions both inside and outside of the classroom, according to Dr. Anthony Campbell, vice-president of Student Affairs.

With the onset of the information age and the ever-increasing enrollment at colleges and universities, students find themselves bombarded with opportunities to plagiarize and take advantage of peers and mentors.

The driving factor behind the establishment of an honor code is, essentially, that it must be founded by way of a grass-roots approach.

“Every honor code is unique to the campus community it belongs to,” said Campbell. “But one thing does not change… in order for it to be successful it has to come up from the culture of the community.”

The prevalence of online report generators and other such services has supported this pandemic, bringing to light a situation that has existed for quite some time.

An honor code can take many forms and may be academic-based, behavioral-based or both. At its heart, however, is a responsibility, which is shared amongst students and faculty that emphasizes community values and ultimately creates a healthy, vibrant campus whose members are able to feel secure in trusting their fellow classmates, according to Campbell.

Several well-known schools have established honor codes with varying degrees of success. The University of Virginia (UV), for instance, has an honor code that has been in place for 160 years, which has been met with a great deal of approval from its students. Its code is rather severe, with the only punishment in place for a student found guilty of lying, cheating or stealing by a jury of their peers is expulsion, according to the UV website.

Princeton University has a complex honor tradition which is well outlined on its own website, www.princeton.edu/~honor. Princeton has a separate Honor Committee that handles only violations of the honor code, which covers only in-class examinations. A separate entity, The Committe on Discipline, handles all other academic violations such as plagiarism, lab reports, homework and take-home exams as well as criminal activity. The Honor Committee is composed soley of students while The Committee on Discipline includes administrators and faculty members as well as students.

The Honor Code in place at Princeton also requires every student to sign an Honor Pledge at the conclusion of every in-class examination. The pledge states “I pledge my honor that I have not violated the Honor Code during this examination.”

The possibility of an honor code at Rider is, very likely, not going to affect the typical undergraduate student here at Rider in that it takes extensive discussion, revision, and agreement before it can even be proposed to the student body, according to Campbell. The typical time period estimated for the establishment of an honor code is approximated to be four to five years, due to its delicate nature and consequences.

“This is not something that I, as the Dean of Students, can impose on the students,” said Campbell. “It’s got to be something that’s developed from among the students and the faculty, a campus ethos that actually comes into effect, a set of expectations and standards of behavior that everybody affirms rather than a set of rules. That’s why it has to come from the bottom up and that’s why it takes time.”

There are many pluses to adopting an honor code such as an improvement in student-teacher relations, a more secure and connected student body,and a well-established culture of trust.

“We have all the rules we need right now; it’s not throwing more rules on it,” said Campbell. Instead, it is “an understanding in the community about how we treat each other and trust each other.”

While an honor code may take years in the making, it must be initiated by way of a demonstrated interest from the student body. Without student support, it cannot make the shift from idea to reality, according to Campbell. If support is shown, a committee will be established which will consist of students and faculty and will work on the basis of consensus in determining proper consequences for violation of the code.

By a general agreement among the members of the committee, penalties would become universal in their range, but subjective in regards to particular situations.

“What’s important with an honor code in adjudicating a violation is consistency,” said Campbell, meaning that this new standard would eliminate biases in regards to individual professors, instead establishing an universal code of conduct by which all students are judged equally.

Those interested in expressing their opinions about an honor code will be given the opportunity on Nov. 20 from 11:30-1:00 p.m. in the Bart Luedeke Center, room 257.