Over a year after a cheating scandal wreaked havoc at Harvard, Yale’s rival school is considering implementing an honor code.
The institution of an honor code would put Harvard in line with schools such as Princeton and the University of Virginia, both of which boast long-standing honor codes as centerpieces of their intellectual communities. A subcommittee of Harvard College’s Committee on Academic Integrity began drafting the college’s first-ever honor code earlier this month, according to the Crimson. Yale, meanwhile, has never had a comparable honor system. Though the University reported 30 charges of academic dishonesty in spring 2013, Yale College Dean Mary Miller said the University is not actively seeking to implement an honor code.
“Quite honestly, we expect nothing less than academic honesty,” Miller said. “Students have agreed by matriculation to abide by the rules.”
Yale students are expected to have read the undergraduate regulations and follow them, she said, adding that this informal contract is not much different from an honor code that requires students to sign a pledge of honor on individual essays and exams.
Similarly, Harvard currently has “academic standards and handbook rules” in place, said Jonathan Jeffrey, a Harvard sophomore who is one of five students on the eight-person drafting subcommittee. But he added that, without a formal honor system, “there’s no unifying code on what we as a community believe.”
Harvard’s Committee on Academic Integrity is seeking to “institute a cultural shift” at the college, said Terah Lyons, a senior on the committee. If implemented, Harvard’s honor code would articulate a statement of community principles about academic integrity, she said.
Though Miller said Yale does not have a formulaic campus-wide approach like an honor code, she said the University still fosters discussions about academic integrity both in the classroom and the residential colleges. When faculty members apply to teach a new course, they are required to describe how they will address academic honesty, she said, which prompts faculty to think innovatively about how they might talk to students about the issue.
Still, Yale students said their professors have rarely addressed academic integrity and seem to expect students to have already internalized Yale’s standards.
“It’s a side comment before an exam,” Savina Kim ’16 said. “We don’t actually set the ground rules beforehand. There are just expectations.”
Lyons said that she has noted an uptick in conversations about academic integrity at Harvard ever since last year, when approximately 125 students were investigated for cheating on a spring 2012 final examination. But while Lyons said discussion is a good start, she added that the honor code would add “extra dimensions of clarification and awareness.”
Students interviewed who attend schools with honor codes said a formal code helps create a sense of mutual accountability between students.
At Princeton, for example, students are compelled to write, “I pledge my honor that I have not violated the Honor Code during this examination” on their exams. Princeton exams have no proctors, and students are expected to report instances of cheating to the administration.
The Princeton honor code does not distinguish between cheating and failure to report cheating, said Zach Koerbel, a current Princeton sophomore. Violators on both those ends sit before an honor committee comprised of students who, according to Koerbel, enforce a standard penalty of a one-year leave of absence even for minor infractions like continuing to work past the end of an exam.
Miranda Sachs PHD ’17, who went to Princeton as an undergraduate, recalled “a sense of ownership and responsibility” that came with the honor code.
“I remember students talking my first year about how they felt uncomfortable watching their classmates, but it’s something you get used to and there’s a sense of pride that the professors are willing to trust you,” she said in an email to the News.
Harvard’s Committee on Academic Integrity has been meeting since the fall of 2010.