Campus / Honor Code Review / News / February 15, 2012

One phase remains for Honor Code review

The Honor Code Review Committee (HCRC) has completed another step in the process of reviewing the Honor Code, which has been ongoing since last year.

In the past few weeks, 636 students and approximately 65 to 75 faculty members completed surveys either in class, during a faculty meeting or online, according to HCRC Chair and Associate Professor of Mathematics Mary Armon, who considered this to be a “fantastic response rate.”

Although the HCRC is in a phase of processing, of “digesting” the data and comments they have received, Armon already knows some changes that will most likely be made to the Code, including rewriting it in less legalistic terms.

“The way our Honor Code is written is … too much like a legal document and it shouldn’t be that way,” Armon said. “We’re trying to place the Honor Code in the context of a learning community.”

Dr. Tricia Bertram Gallant, Academic Integrity Coordinator at the University of California at San Diego, brought up this point in a series of lectures that occurred in the fall.

“I don’t think there will be big changes otherwise,” Armon said, although they are still analyzing the surveys.

The goal of the survey, according to HCRC and Honor Board member and Professor of Philosophy Bill Young was to “learn about the students’ attitude towards academic honesty.”

Armon said the survey was aiming to discover how likely students are to report violations to the Honor Board, how often faculty see and report violations, what students perceive as academic dishonesty and “whether student and faculty perceptions line up,” which would tell the committee how well the current Honor System is working.

The survey also looked at patterns of cheating, such as whether freshmen are more likely to make citation errors because they do not understand proper citation or whether older students are more likely to view certain types of academic dishonesty as not important and engage in them, according to Armon.

The survey was created with questions from the institute helping with the review process, the Center for Academic Integrity, of which Knox is a member institution.

“We ended up keeping many of the questions,” Armon said, although they tailored questions for Knox, adding questions about the proctoring of exams and taking out some questions related to online tests and other procedures not applicable to Knox.

While the paper survey given to students in class and professor in a faculty meeting mainly consisted of questions about what they consider cheating and what behaviors they have engaged in, an additional web survey included the same questions, for those who had not taken it in class, as well as open ended questions.

The responses will not only help the committee revise the code, but intends to help the school integrate the teaching of academic honesty into the classroom.

Armon believes that more work needs to go into improving academic honesty. She thinks academic integrity could be integrated more into courses at Knox and the way faculty members teach them.

Some of this has already begun; Armon said this year’s Freshman Preceptorial course was “really intentional about academic integrity issues … and it seems to have helped.”

She suggested that in addition to this faculty could discuss the ethical dilemmas they face within their academic discipline, as ethical principals guide all disciplines.

But changes to the Code will be necessary as well and the HCRC plans to hold public events spring term to discuss changes. Although no decision has been made as to the format of these, Armon hopes to increase student participation by offering proposed changes for students to respond to.

“We want to take into account the sentiment of the community,” Young said.

In addition to talking to the community in general, the committee is in the process of talking to community members directly related to the functioning of the Honor Code and Honor Board. They have talked to President of the College Teresa Amott, former Associate Dean of the College Steve Bailey and current Honor Board members, as well as ten years of past Honor Board Co-Chairs. They plan to talk to Associate Dean Lori Haslem and President Emeritus Roger Taylor.

The Committee hopes to stick to the original timeline of having final recommendations by the end of the school year but both Young and Armon have doubts about whether this will be accomplished.

“I don’t know how realistic that is but that’s the goal we’re working towards,” Young said.

“We’re moving slowly, but we’re moving,” Armon said. “It’s a thorny problem … fraught with a lot of emotion around it.”

Gretchen Walljasper

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