Honor code

Honor code

An honour code or honour system is a set of rules or principles governing a community based on a set of rules or ideals that define what constitutes honorable behavior within that community. The use of an honor code depends on the idea that people (at least within the community) can be trusted to act honorably. Those who are in violation of the honor code can be subject to various sanctions, including expulsion from the institution. Honor codes are most commonly used in the United States to deter academic dishonesty.

Academic honor codes

In America, the first student-policed honor system was instituted in 1779 at The College of William & Mary at the behest of Virginia's then-Governor Thomas Jefferson.

UVA's early years were marked by contentious relations between students and the faculty, which culminated on November 12, 1840, when John Davis, a professor, was shot to death in an attempt to quell a disturbance on The Lawn. Davis refused to identify his assailant, stating that an honorable man would step forward on his own. On July 4, 1842, College of William and Mary alumnus Henry St. George Tucker, who had replaced Davis on the faculty, proposed that in the future, students sign examinations in the form "I, A.B., do hereby certify on my honor that I have derived no assistance during the time of this examination from any source whatsoever."[1] The idea succeeded with the students. The wording of the honor pledge has changed over time, and the definition of what constitutes an honor offense has evolved as well, at times including matters such as smoking, cheating at card games or insulting ladies.[2] As of 2006 lying, cheating, or stealing, is always allowed. Despite the evolution of the system over the years, UVA's Honor System is rare in that it is administered entirely by the University's students.[3] Princeton has also maintained an entirely student-run Honor Code since the beginning of their Code in 1893.

However, Jefferson's vision of a student self-governed system remains largely unrealized at other universities. Most schools adopting honor codes limit their application to the academic realm. More comprehensive systems—not unlike Haverford's and Davidson's—where students ratify and enforce social and academic codes, are rare.

Today, some of the most notable and most stringent honor codes exist at the U.S. federal military academies—the U.S. Naval Academy, the U.S. Military Academy (see Cadet Honor Code), the U.S. Air Force Academy, the United States Merchant Marine Academy, and the United States Coast Guard Academy. The military academy honor codes not only govern the cadets' and mid-shipmen's lives at the academies, but are deemed essential to the development of military officers who are worthy of the public trust. As such, the codes are not limited merely to academic situations or to conduct on campus; cadets and midshipmen are expected to live by the codes' ethical standards at all times. Furthermore, they may not tolerate violations by other cadets-toleration itself being a violation of the code, with the exception of the Honor Concept of the Brigade of Midshipmen at the United States Naval Academy, which allows the observer of an honor violation to confront the accused without formally reporting. It was found that this method was more constructive at developing the honor of midshipmen as opposed to a non-toleration clause, which created enemies of classmates and ones true honor, if other than utmost, was not able to be formally remediated when hidden from public view. Under the academies' honor codes, violation of the code is generally dealt with by forwarding the offender for expulsion by the secretary, depending on the nature of the offense and how far along in their training at the academy the accused is.[4]

Stringent honor codes, however, are not limited to military institutions. The all-male Hampden-Sydney College is reputed for an honor code system on a par with military systems;[citation needed] this code extends to all student activities both on and off campus (off-campus violations can be prosecuted) and, also like the military system, considers tolerance of a violation itself a violation. Like the Naval Academy, though, those who witness a violation are encouraged to confront the violator and convince them to turn themselves in before resorting to reporting the violation. Another school with a very strict honor code is Brigham Young University. The university not only mandates honest behavior, but incorporates various aspects of virtuous living: drinking, smoking, drug use, and premarital sex are all banned. Also, the code includes standards for dress and grooming. Men must be clean shaven and men and women cannot wear short shorts or other revealing clothing.[5]

Enforcement of honor codes differs from campus to campus as well. UVA opts for a system run by elected students and involving randomly chosen students. Bryn Mawr College holds its students to a high degree of trust with their Honor Code which is revised yearly and ruled by the Honor Board. Haverford College holds an honor code which is ratified by students yearly and run by an elected body, Honor Council. This code is concerned with an academic as well as a social component, demanding equal respect among students, in contrast to the military academies' focus on hierarchy. Davidson College also holds a dual honor code. According to a legend surrounding the Davidson code, a student was put on trial for not reporting an extra can of soda dispensed by a vending machine. Princeton University has maintained a student-run Honor Code for over one hundred years, unique in that regard among Ivy League schools. Vanderbilt University has also been governed by an Honor Code since its founding. Freshmen students attend an honor code ceremony to protect the traditions and academic integrity of the university. A plaque of the honor code is engraved in the student life center with a quote by once-Chancellor Madison Sarratt, "Today I give you two examinations, one in trigonometry and one in honesty. I hope you pass them both, but if you must fail one, let it be trigonometry for there are many good men in this world today who cannot pass an examination in trigonometry, but there are no good men in the world who cannot pass an examination in honesty." The University of Texas School of Law sets its Honor Code as a first step in the obligation of its students to the legal profession: "All law students are harmed by unethical behavior by any student. A student who deals dishonestly with fellow law students may be dishonest in the future and harm both future clients and the legal profession."[6] In keeping with this approach to the honor code in the grand scheme of the legal profession, honor code violations are reported to the State Bar of Texas and the violator's home state bar, thus creating an impediment to licensure. UT Law School is unique in that regard. James Madison University holds its students to an Honor Code overseen by the Honor Council. The honor code at JMU is over a century old, founded in 1909 and the Honor Council at JMU is an organization run by students. A student who violates the code if found "responsible" may receive anywhere from a letter grade reduction to expulsion from the university for a first time offense, while second time offenders are either suspended from the university for a semester or expelled. "The Honor Council at James Madison University is committed to instilling, promoting, and upholding individual and collective academic integrity.".[7]

Sample honor pledges

  • "Honor Above All"--Charlotte Latin School
  • "On my honor as a student, I have neither given nor received aid on this assignment/exam." — University of Virginia
  • "Pledge: No Aid; No Violations." — Wesleyan University
  • "A Cadet will not lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate those who do." — Virginia Military Institute
  • "A cadet will not lie, cheat and steal and not tolerate those who do." — United States Military Academy
  • "We will not lie, steal or cheat, nor tolerate among us anyone who does." — United States Air Force Academy and Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps
  • "A Midshipman will not lie, cheat, or steal." — United States Naval Academy and United States Merchant Marine Academy
  • "Who lives here reveres honor, honors duty; we neither lie, cheat, steal nor attempt to deceive." — United States Coast Guard Academy
  • "Aggies do not lie, cheat, or steal, nor do they tolerate those who do." — Texas A&M University
  • "On my honor I have neither given nor received any unauthorized aid on this (exam, test, paper)." — Rice University
  • "Under code of honor, I certify when completing this work I did not give nor receive any type of help, outside the specified by the professor." — Tecnológico de Monterrey
  • "I pledge my honor that I have neither given or received aid on this test or paper." — Charlotte Catholic High School
  • "I pledge my honor that I have not violated the honor code during this examination." — Princeton University [1]
  • "I have neither given or received nor have I tolerated others' use of unauthorized aid." — Valparaiso University [2]
  • "No member of the Caltech community shall take unfair advantage of any other member of the Caltech community." — California Institute of Technology
  • "On my honor as a University of Colorado student, I have neither given nor received unauthorized assistance." — University of Colorado
  • "I pledge that I have neither received nor given unauthorized assistance during the completion of this work." — University of Richmond
  • "The Hampden-Sydney student will not lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate those who do." — Hampden-Sydney College
  • "Sweet Briar women do not lie, cheat, steal or violate the rights of others. Therefore, I pledge to uphold all standards of honorable conduct. I will report myself and others for any infraction of this pledge." — Sweet Briar College
  • "I attest this is my own work and accept the consequences if it is not." — Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts
  • "On my honor, I have not given, nor received, nor witnessed any unauthorized assistance on this work." — Rollins College [3]
  • "I affirm that I will uphold the highest principles of honesty and integrity in all my endeavors at Gettysburg College and foster an atmosphere of mutual respect within and beyond the classroom." — Gettysburg College
  • "On all my work, my name affirms my Honor." — Harvard-Westlake School
  • "On my honor, as a student, I have neither given nor received unauthorized aid on this academic work." — Kansas State University
  • "I pledge to uphold the principles of honesty and responsibility at our University." — Texas State University
  • "A cadet does not lie, cheat, steal, nor tolerate those who do." — The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina
  • "We have but one rule here, and it is that every student must be a gentleman."-Washington and Lee University
  • "I pledge on my honour that during this examination I have neither given nor received unauthorized assistance, nor have I seen any violations of the Exam Code of Conduct." — Ashesi University (Ghana)
  • "The members of the METU community are reliable, responsible and honourable people who embrace only the success and recognition they deserve, and act with integrity in their use, evaluation and presentation of facts, data and documents." — Middle East Technical University
  • "I have neither given nor received aid in this examination nor have I concealed any violation of the University Honour Code." — Middle East Technical University
  • "On my honor as a St. Andrew's student, I pledge that I will neither lie, cheat, nor steal." — St. Andrew's Episcopal School (Mississippi)
  • "I have abided by the Wheaton College Honor Code in this work." — Wheaton College, MA
  • "I have been honest and observed no dishonesty." — Guilford College
  • "On my honor as a Pace Academy student, I have neither given nor received help on this test/exam/paper, nor will I." — Pace Academy
  • "On my honor I have neither given nor received unauthorized aid." — Choate Rosemary Hall
  • "Each member of the Association of Students of Harvey Mudd College is responsible for maintaining his or her integrity and the integrity of the college community in all academic matters and in all affairs concerning the community." - Harvey Mudd College


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