During fall term check-in, one survey question asked each student whether he or she fully understood the Honor Code. The Honor Board members were surprised by the result.
“Around 15 percent clicked the ‘no’ button on check-in,” said Ryan Larson, senior member of the Honor Board. But the trouble was that it was not clear why students responded in the negative.
“Did they say no because they want to know more, or because they dislike the Honor Code? Do they want to violate it?” Larson said.
In response to the results, the Honor Board sent out a campus-wide survey, the first half of which largely tests knowledge of the Honor Code. Larson wants to improve the educational aspect of the board. He thinks there should be Honor Board information every term and hopes that the survey will help to identify areas that have been lacking.
“The Honor Board is trying to be preventative, whereas in the last three years it has been defensive,” he said. One explanation he offers for this is that the board’s junior members comprise the education committee, but juniors often go abroad.
It was not always the case that this task went to the juniors. Brian Camozzi ‘08, former co-chair of the Honor Board, wrote this and many other changes into the Honor Board constitution. The problem that he sought to rectify was that “the previous constitution, I believe, created an education committee-of-the-whole, which never did anything.” He argued that “the juniors would benefit from engaging in the Honor System’s vicissitudes before they became co-chairs.”
According to Larson, “the end goal is less cases by more information or awareness everyday.” Larson also cited that the Honor Code might need “updating.”
It is for this reason, he said, Associate Dean Lori Haslem is sending the Honor Code to independent reviewers at the Center for Academic Integrity.
Haslem herself has not judged whether or not changes need to be made.
“I’m simply proposing that we conduct a well-constructed review of the Honor Code that allows all Knox constituencies (mainly students and faculty) to weigh in on how well they think it currently works,” she said.
Senior Ariana Tuckey, co-chair of the Board, agrees with Larson that there needs to be better education, but also said that she wants to know how people feel about the Honor Code.
“What are the attitudes?” she said. Tuckey says that individuals have expressed that they think the Honor Code is a joke or that it does not do enough.
“Some people want a social Honor Code,” she said, which Tuckey is not interested in implementing. Indeed, the second part of the survey is written to help the Honor Board address these concerns. This section includes four questions, each asking for attitudes regarding aspects of the Honor Code.
Larson’s and Tuckey’s proposals to improve awareness of the Honor Board’s actions include students and faculty directly contacting them with questions and possibly implementing a question-and-answer session with the Honor Board. Camozzi agreed with the Q&A and added the suggestion of “an anonymous online form, or a physical drop-box, where students can ask questions any time of the year about the code and the system of the Honor Board. The secretary can collect these, convene the board to discuss the issues and prepare answers, and provide those answers via campus-wide e-mail.” When asked about the possibility of an anonymous question system, Tuckey said that it would be difficult to implement.
A quick poll of students in the Gizmo yielded results which did not reflect those obtained from the question at check-in. They all said yes, indicating an understanding of Honor Board.
“It’s not confusing,” freshman Amanda Shiew said.
“I checked yes because I felt I knew it enough. I didn’t know it intricately – I thought I got the gist,” junior Mark Farrell said.
The Honor Code is one of the things junior Rachel Clark likes most about Knox.
“It treats us like adults and not high schoolers,” she said.
But one respondent said that one of the reasons that he chose the “yes” option was because, “I assumed it would not let me pick no.” He asked to remain anonymous.
As Larson said, there are still a number of reasons why students might have chosen no. Larson and Tuckey admit that it might have to do with the secretive reputation that the Honor Board has acquired. Both would like it to be more open.
“I’m inclined to think, though, that a big part of the misunderstanding and fear of the Honor Board stems from a mistaken sense of the Board’s purpose and purview,” Camozzi said.
Honor Board members past and present seem to agree that more information is key to a functioning Honor Code. It is important to the current members that students take the online survey that has been sent out. The responses to the survey will help shape the board’s response to the high number of students claiming to not understand the Honor Code.