Honor Code Cracked: Students Question Effectiveness

Courtesy of Southwestern.Edu

Courtesy of Southwestern.Edu

“I have acted with honesty and integrity in producing this work and am unaware of anyone who has not.”

In every classroom at Southwestern University, a student can only glance upwards and see these 19 words plastered all over the walls. Now the student may not take serious heed to these words when he or she is frantically scrawling them on their tests at the last minute, but the Honor Code actually means something. Surprise, huh?

According to the Southwestern University website, the Honor Code was established to instill a “bond of trust between students and their professors” and to commit “themselves to academic integrity.”

Although many students agree on the purpose for the code, there is an overwhelming sense of criticism towards it. Many people believe that just because students are forced to write the code on all their tests and school assignments does not fully deter cheating.
One student (we will call her R) said she believed that the Honor Code is futile because “we are in college and we are adults, [so therefore] we should be able to be responsible for ourselves.”

Another student K, who was very fervent against the Honor Code, believed that “if [the student] cannot handle the workload at [Southwestern University] without cheating, then [the student] should rethink [his or her] decisions.” K also declared that “teachers make it a bigger deal than it needs to be and that many of them assume the worst,” especially when the student might have simply forgotten to add the Honor Code in the frenzy of procrastination. K added that the Honor Code is too long and tedious and thus, lessens its emphasis and purpose.

When asked about the Honor Code, student J made an inappropriate hand gesture. J then stated that “there is an unspoken understanding that many people do not follow the code.”

Members of the original honor council.  Courtesy of Southwestern.Edu

Members of the original honor council. Courtesy of Southwestern.Edu

Although Southwestern University still upholds the tradition of the Honor Code, it does not necessarily mean that the system is foolproof. As a matter of fact, many of the students find it quite nonsensical and a naive way of combating the matter.

An example of this indiscretion includes an incident last semester concerning the Honor Code. During a final, one person did not sign the Honor Code because she or he had heard people talking and commenting on the test but not actually giving answers (which apparently is not in violation of the Honor Code). The student then approached the teacher, with the accusation that all the students in the class were cheating. The teacher then gave the class an ultimatum: Either go to the Honor Code Council or take a zero on the final. When the students, believing that they did nothing wrong, decided on the former choice, the teacher apparently said that she or he had reliable sources against the students, and that it would be very difficult to prove their innocence. Thus, the Honor Code complicated a misunderstanding and propelled it to a very complicated stalemate between the students and teachers.

The purpose of the Honor Code is well, honorable. Not only is cheating detrimental to the person attempting the fraud, it is downright unfair to the other students. Hard work and dedication should be rewarded and those who do not even try should not reap in the delicious fruits of labor.

However, the Honor Code complicates academia more than it helps. Instead of mindlessly forcing students to write a tedious line down, the school should try to work on instilling a work ethic into the students by showing them that, yes, the results are worth all the hard work and effort. There will never be a foolproof way to preserve complete honesty especially since the students are under a stressful and competitive environment. However, there needs to be a better way of creating a sense of trust between the teacher and student and to create an atmosphere that does not pressure the students using such dishonest means to achieve the end.

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