Obligatory integrity: not the way to uphold Honor

Though the Honor Code of Allegheny College provides important academic expectations and encourages academic integrity on campus, some of its policies are flawed and in need of revision.

The Code’s Article IV presents a set of contradictory requirements for testing locations. This section states that exams do not need to be proctored and that students are not bound to the classroom. However, it then stipulates that this freedom extends only to the building where the exam is being held. The Code absolutely prohibits students from taking tests behind locked doors.

The code states, “It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that the door to the room remains unlocked during the entire exam.”

If the Honor Code truly placed trust in the integrity of the students who pledge to uphold it, these stipulations would be unnecessary. The aforementioned Article III prohibits the use of any kind of aid on exams, and yet the code places restrictions on students’ freedom of movement out of fear that they will be dishonest. Freedom cannot be conditional. In order for the college to truly place trust in its student body, it must not place stipulations on the liberties it provides.

The testifying process used for alleged violations is also problematic. Students who report Honor Code infractions may be required to testify in front of the students they have reported; this in many cases forces students to choose between academic honesty and the preservation of their own friendships. While it is crucial for students to understand the importance of maintaining academic integrity on campus, some may not file a report because they fear ostracization from their friends and peer groups. If reporters’ testimonials were taken separately from the trial, students would be more likely to report suspected code violations. Reporting a friend is morally trying in itself: students are, in a sense, violating the trust of a friendship to uphold their pledge of academic honor.

While reporting the incident is clearly the right thing to do, students should never feel as though they are being pitted against their friends because they choose to do the right thing.

The signature requirement for all submitted work is superfluous and suggests that students need constant reminders not to be dishonest. Article II of the code explains that, by matriculating, all students are required to submit to the stipulations of the Honor Code. This means that, when turning in any kind of work, students have already sworn their work to be honest simply by virtue of enrolling at the college. However, students are still taught to write, “This work is mine unless otherwise cited,” and sign their names on all work before submitting it. The code explains that any work submitted without this signature cannot be graded. However, it also states that a lack of signature does not exempt a work from the expectations explained in the document. The signature policy here admits its own redundancy: students will be punished for plagiarism regardless of whether they sign their names on their papers, but the college requires signatures anyway.

Though the sentence was likely implemented to remind students of the importance of academic integrity, such a reminder is unnecessary. Students are aware that work they submit should reflect only their own ideas; the signature requirement suggests doubt rather than trust in students’ work.   

The Honor Code has the potential to serve as a strong moral foundation for the student body, but in order to do so, it must first place unwavering trust in Allegheny students. Until the code places no stipulations on the freedoms it provides, it cannot truly stand as a privilege rooted in trust and integrity.