A total of 38 cases went before the Honor Board so far this academic year, with five cases ruled innocent. Fifteen were ruled on outside of the official hearings and 23 cases were brought before the board officially.
The Honor Code is the student code of conduct for academic integrity and has existed since 1951. The Honor Board, which adjudicates the proper penalties for violations of the code, is a 13-member student board made up of five seniors, four juniors and four sophomores. The current co-chairs are senior Uduak-Obong Ekanem and junior Samantha Duffy.
In a document current to the end of Winter Term, the Honor Board broke down each case by type of work, offense, charge of guilty or not guilty and penalties. Collaboration is the highest offense recorded, with 17 total instances. After that, eight cases dealt with plagiarism, four the use of unauthorized material and one instance of lying to the professor.
The types of assignments for which students were brought to the board were varied. Midterm exams resulted in the highest amount of cases, with a total of 20. Five were brought in for quizzes, five for assignments, five for papers, two for a final exam and one for a lab.
“Honor Board is unfortunately the most hated club on campus,” Honor Board Secretary and senior Bonne Matheson said. She wishes that students and professors alike were less afraid of utilizing the board to help students.
This fear of the official Honor Board hearing system prompted the board to change the Honor Code in the fall of 2014. They made changes to allow for more flexible penalties and introduce an informal solution. They did this in part to make the process less daunting for professors and students.
Initially, the system operated on a strict three-strike system, which resulted in a first penalty of failure of assignment, second failure of class and third expulsion from the college. In addition to that flexibility, the Code was modified to allow for informal solutions.
“We became a lot more flexible in the penalties we were allowed to give,” Matheson said. She also wants to encourage more professors to bring issues to the board. “I think they try to take care of it by themselves sometimes and we’re there to help everyone.”
An admission of guilt and a first-time offense are the qualifiers for an informal solution. In these cases, students avoid going to the board and are instead allowed to negotiate directly with their professor and Honor Board co-chair what the penalty should consist of it.
Fifteen cases were decided by informal solutions this year. Students faced a variety of penalties, such as failure of assignment, exam, quiz and paper or withdrawal from the course. There were two instances of additional penalties, which required two students to rewrite a paper and attend a citation help session with the library.
Second-time offenders or those who wish to plead innocent of the offense go before the full board. Of the 23 cases adjudicated, five students had their cases ruled innocent. The penalties given were similar to that of informal solutions, including failure of course, assignment, paper and exam, one warning and one additional penalty of participating in a library help session. One case resulted in expulsion.
Matheson and her peers are working to make the details of the Honor Code more well known on campus. Underclassmen and international students are more likely to be violators, which she attributed to a lack of previous familiarity with these kinds of systems.
Additionally, some students have cited in hearings that they resort to cheating because of pressures placed on them by parents.
“[It] is unfortunate,” Matheson said. “Doing poorly on an exam or an assignment is better than failing a whole class.”
To improve the visibility of Honor Board, the board has started going to orientation week and introduced the concept of the Honor Code to new students. When asked by TKS, multiple freshmen cited hearing about the Honor Code at orientation, but they could not remember the details of how the system worked. Of six students asked, none could name a member of the Honor Board and few knew about the informal option.
“[The Honor Code] basically makes sure everything is fair and we are doing our part of our education,” freshman Teslin Penoyer said, but she did not know the process for violators. “I have no idea, if that were that to happen, what I would do.”
Additionally, Matheson believes the anonymous reporting on the Knox website is underutilized, as most of the violations are reported by professors, not fellow students.
“The co-chairs will receive an email that an anonymous report came in, as well as the co-chairs will receive the report,” Matheson said. “Those three will figure it out before bringing it to the board.”
If students are concerned about violating the Honor Code, Matheson wants them to feel comfortable coming forward.