Faculty Still Concerned About Honor Code Affirmation

Meeting Also Includes Credit-Based Course System Proposal

UPDATED: April 2, 2013, at 3:34 a.m.

Members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences raised concerns about how frequently students would be required to make an affirmation of integrity under an updated proposal for the College’s first-ever honor code, which was presented by Dean of Undergraduate Education Jay Harris to the faculty at their monthly meeting Tuesday.

Harris also presented a proposal for the adoption of a new course credit system, replacing the College’s current system of course units. Under the proposed policy, courses that currently count as half-courses would be worth four credits, though the number of required courses necessary to graduate would remain constant.

Both proposals were presented for discussion only and were not ready for faculty vote.

During the discussion of the proposed honor code, faculty raised concerns surrounding the ambiguity in the policy’s language, especially as it concerned the frequency with which students would be required to sign or make an affirmation of integrity.


At the faculty’s last meeting in February, members asked Harris how often students would be required to make or sign the affirmation. Tuesday, Harris told the faculty that the frequency would be determined by the Dean of the College. But some said that provision is still too ambiguous.

The possibility that students might be required to sign or write the affirmation on every assignment “disconcerted” anthropology professor Arthur Kleinman, who said that further discussion is necessary to prevent this possibility.

“Something that is repeated all of the time is very different from something that is affirmed once in a student’s career or once every year,” computer science professor Harry R. Lewis ’68 said.

If the affirmation became too regular, said history professor Charles S. Maier ’60, it might become “ritualistic” and lose its meaning.

After hearing these concerns, Harris assured faculty members that the frequency, although initially proposed by the College Dean, would be sent to them for a vote before being enacted, because it would represent a change in the Faculty Handbook.

Still others questioned if students and faculty would be required to report instances of cheating under the new honor code and what would happen to those who refused to sign the affirmation of integrity.

Harris said that the honor code would not require students to report cheating if they saw it, and that, for this reason, exams would continue to be proctored under the new policy.

Professors would still be obligated to report cheating should it be brought to their attention by students, he added.

Harris also said that students who refuse to sign the affirmation would still be expected to abide by the code, but that further discussion surrounding that possibility had not yet taken place.

The honor code policy presented at the meeting would also establish an honor board to hear cases of potential violations of academic integrity. At least half of that board would be composed of undergraduate students, with faculty members, administrators, and teaching fellows filling the remaining seats.


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