Potential changes in the enforcement of the Honor Code are currently under review by the Academic Standing Committee. The recommendations were included in a review of the state of the Honor System, completed over the summer.
In Spring 2011, the Academic Standing Committee created the Honor Code Review Committee with the intent of reviewing the honor code. The committee drew upon information provided by the Center for Academic Integrity, honor codes at similar academic institutions and input from former and current administrators, Honor Board chairs and current Honor Board members.
Identifying concerns relating to the Honor Board was a key of the review, according to HCRC Chair and Associate Professor of Mathematics Mary Armon.
“A major piece of our work was to survey both students and faculty … just to kind of see where we were. What came out of the faculty survey in particular … was a need for us talk to some faculty members who felt like they’d had bad experiences with the Honor System,” Armon said.
Before a draft of the review could be compiled, faculty had to be contacted to get a firm concept of what kind of grievances were present. According to Armon, faculty grievances surrounding the Honor Code were anticipated.
“I don’t think it goes so far as to say people want to get rid of the Honor Code, but that it’s not quite working right as it currently stands,” Armon said.
One of the concerns among the faculty is that there are not enough students familiar with evidence, particularly in the technical disciplines.
“Not all of the students on the current Honor Board were on board with it, but one of the things that came out of our discussions was perhaps the Honor Board needs to cast a wider net and draw more students from different demographic groups so that everybody can feel like they’re getting a fair hearing,” Armon said. “Making sure that students from all different sorts of majors are on the Honor Board … that’s something that can address that.”
Some issues addressed in the report would not require changes to the Honor Code policy but would instead focus on consistently executing policy. Reporting about Honor Board cases and successful appeals would fall under this category, Armon explained.
The Knox Honor Code was found to differ from academic integrity policies at other colleges.
“The standard of proof to find someone guilty before the Knox Honor Board is guilt beyond a reasonable doubt … some [colleges] just require preponderance of the evidence, which is just 51 percent. Others require clear and convincing evidence, which is somewhere between 51 percent and beyond a reasonable doubt,” Armon said. “So that’s something that I think we’re going to want to study whether making a change is a reasonable thing to be doing.”
Changing the perception of the Honor Code on campus is a critical step in improving the effectiveness of the policy. Armon insisted that every individual on campus must consistently uphold the Honor Code and not simply view the matter as something to be investigated solely by the Honor Board.
“When I start teaching a class, my natural tendency is to think, they’ve all heard this stuff before, why do I need to talk to them about academic integrity or ethics in my field? What does it mean when you write your name on something? … If everybody does that with every class, then students aren’t hearing enough about it … if this is a community value, then members of the community individually must make it a part of their everyday work,” Armon said.
The report was completed over the summer and is currently under review by the Academic Standing Committee.