Discourse / Editorials / Honor Code Review / October 26, 2011

Thoughts from the Embers: Opening the Honor Code review process

Many different organizations and committees around campus are very open, allowing student input and coverage from The Knox Student, but a process that could bring change to a vital part of Knox College has taken an opposite approach.

The Honor Code Review Committee (HCRC) has begun the review process for the 61-year-old pillar of Knox College, which has seen little change over the years. This Code was set up by students and is monitored mainly by students on the Honor Board, but so far this process has been hidden to most of the Knox student body.

The two goals of the HCRC, Associate Dean Lori Haslem stated in a May 11 article in The Knox Student, are to “get a clear understanding of how members of the campus community understand the purpose and processes of the Code” and to “begin making recommendations about ways to improve or update the Code.”

Without proper student involvement and discussion, the committee will quickly fall short of their first goal and then limit their ability to fully satisfy the second.

Not every student may want to take part in the process, but since the Honor Code affects the student body every day (allowing students to take exams unproctored, giving the Honor Board the power to expel students for breaking the Code, etc.) more students should have the chance to take part in this review and we should have the chance to report on this very important review.

We have been unable to get any members on the committee to discuss the specifics of any proposed changes to the Code or when meetings will be held openly, and we are worried that this might lead to a closed process. Members on the committee have refused to talk to us because they said that they have not yet been trained to speak to the media.

While there have been lectures about the Code and the committee plans on having future events, these events provide little chance for input from students. They have been poorly advertised and the student attendance at the events has been dismal.

The bringing in of outside individuals to discuss the Honor Code does not make the review process any more open. If the previous speaker is any sign, the future talks might not provide a better understanding of the Knox Honor Code process, but will only cause confusion. Dr. Tricia Bertram Gallant, the Academic Integrity Coordinator at the University of California at San Diego, was brought in with limited understanding of the Honor Code system at Knox and then began to pick at minor details; she clearly never grasped the whole organization and the success it has had over the past 61 years.

The committee will report to the Academic Standing Committee (ASC) once a month, but the minutes from the ASC are private due to sensitive discussions about individual student grades and other personal items. At the end of each term, ASC will provide a report to faculty, but the information from the HCRC will likely be watered down, delayed and could even be left out of the report.

The HCRC is still in an information-gathering phase, but this phase can still be open to the public and would benefit from the open nature. They have made mentions about an email account or survey to get comments and opinions, but it has yet to be seen and will likely be the equivalent of a suggestion box and not a place for campus-wide conversation.

There have been calls for changes to the Code. The committee cannot bring any of these changes to the process without the approval of Student Senate, ASC and the President of the College, but without valuable student input and openness in the first stage, the review will clearly be incomplete and any changes should be taken with a grain of salt before approval.

The Honor Code maintains the intellectual integrity of the school, but a hidden review process can quickly tarnish and damage this integral part of Knox College.

Note: Katy Sutcliffe, Anna Meier and Matt Barry were unable to give opinions on this Embers since they are members of the Honor Board.

TKS Staff

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