Far from meaningless talk, the honor code and declaration can have a positive psychological impact by reminding each student of the culture of academic honesty and integrity to which we all should strive.And at the very least, a declaration of integrity is unlikely to have any negative effects on academic honesty.(Granted, some of the students also complained that they got in trouble for behavior that would have been tolerated in years past; the course apparently had a reputation of being easy.) In course evaluations, reported, they said the exam questions did not cover material taught in the course, and that questions “were designed to trick you rather than test your understanding of the material.” Some said the teaching assistants assigned to help the students gave everyone the same answers.
In 2010, undergraduate dean Jay Harris told that academic dishonesty there was “a real problem.” Harvard's official handbook says students should “assume that collaboration in the completion of assignments is prohibited unless explicitly permitted by the instructor.” And the university apparently created a voluntary academic integrity pledge students could sign last year, the reported, but scrapped it this year.
One idea administrators have floated publicly is an honor code.
Harvard officials, who declined to comment for this story, say they plan to revisit their academic integrity policies and possibly create an honor code.
It’s not the first time they’ve raised the idea – for at least two years now, administrators have recognized the potential need for a makeover.
By the time students get to college, they have internalized messages “mistakenly conveyed to them” by both society and the educational system that the experience “is simply a means to an end,” said Teddi Fishman, director of Clemson University’s International Center for Academic Integrity.
“The students who make it to us (and especially the ones who end up in schools like Harvard) have learned exactly what they have to do to succeed, and sadly, that often has very little to do with becoming educated,” Fishman said in an e-mail. The short, one-and-a-half page document includes two important new policies.First, it calls for students to sign an “affirmation to integrity” before major examinations; and second, it creates a joint student-faculty “honor board” to oversee cases involving academic dishonesty.“Instead, it’s almost solely about figuring out what will be asked (in papers, tests, and other assessments), learning that material long enough to produce it when necessary, and then moving on to the next thing.” Mollie Galloway, an assistant professor of education and counseling at Lewis & Clark College in Oregon, conducted research finding that 93 percent of students at a group of affluent high schools had cheated in one way or another – be it copying answers, using electronics in class, or plagiarizing.Singling out the juniors and seniors, she found that 26 percent had cheated in 7 or more of 13 different ways.But experts say the whole situation is indicative of systemic issues that will be hard to address simply by throwing one together.Perhaps the main culprit in such behavior, experts say, one that is ingrained deeply in college students today – particularly at elite universities like Harvard – is the idea that the main objective should be to pass, not to learn.“The existence of an environment where one might cheat is not an excuse for cheating,” one wrote.Another commented: “These spoiled brats seem to be turning on their professor to protect their diplomas.” (Others took greater issue with the professor and class format than the students.) If Harvard does go the honor code route, it could help create a culture where students and professors are more trusting of one another and cheating is less likely to occur.These are positive developments toward fostering a culture of academic honesty at the College.Over time, we hope that they will help to create a community that better upholds the ideals of honesty and integrity.