Honor code may rule academics

An honor code that would exclusively address academic honesty and behavior is in the beginning stages of discussion between Temple Student Government and the university.

Discussion started this semester with a meeting of the ad hoc Academic Integrity Committee and discussion on the topic at a Faculty Senate and Council of Deans retreat. Darin Bartholomew, Temple’s student body president, also brought the idea up at the Oct. 28 TSG general assembly meeting, where students responded with mixed feedback.

“They weren’t questions of why, they were questions of how,” Bartholomew said. “Whenever you do anything like this there’s always going to be some students here and there that question why we’re even doing it at all. Overwhelmingly the questions have been, ‘How would it be implemented? What would the rules be like?’ So I really don’t think it’s seen negatively.”

Implementing an honor code at Temple would centralize rules and regulations for exclusively academic matters. These rules are briefly mentioned in the Student Code of Conduct, with cheating and plagiarism defined, as well as a three-part section on classroom rules and academic dishonesty.

Further academic rules vary across colleges, degrees and graduate levels. Peter Jones, the vice provost of undergraduate studies and a main proponent for instituting an honor code, said it isn’t necessary but has a place.

“One could argue that there is little difference – that the goals of an honor code could be met by a Student Code of Conduct,” Jones said in an email. “In many institutions, the two are considered different in the respect that the honor code deals only with academic issues and the Student Code of Conduct extends to encompass on- and off-campus student behavior.”

This move toward an honor code is in part an element of Temple’s efforts to increase national prestige.

“This is something that the provost’s office brought up to us in a discussion,” Bartholomew said. “As we push towards the Top 100 in the country, we need to start looking at things that other schools in that Top 100 have.”

Honor codes have been long standing in prestigious universities throughout the country. The honor system at Princeton University is entirely student-run, down to the hearings for violations, with the ability to recommend a range of punishments up to expulsion. However, a system similar to Princeton is not what Bartholomew said he envisions for an honor code.

“I don’t see us going completely student-run, at least not yet,” Bartholomew said. “Students are involved in writing it, so you’re going to be able to very easily understand what it’s about.”

The honor code at the University of Pennsylvania is a list of rules prohibiting cheating, plagiarism, fabrication, multiple submissions, misrepresentation of academic records, facilitating academic dishonesty and forcing an unfair academic advantage. Suspected violators to the code are subject to hearings by the university.

Jones said the tentative timeline for instituting an honor code at Temple is to have initial recommendations in Fall 2014.

It is yet to be determined who would make the honor code rules. Bartholomew said he would like to see a board that student representatives serve on. Jones said he would like such a body to include representation from the provost’s office, college deans, faculty and students.

Judging from student feedback, Bartholomew said the code should be reviewed either every year or every semester, possibly having all students signing off that they agree to adhere to it each time.

Marcus McCarthy can be reached at marcus.mccarthy@temple.edu or on                                        Twitter @MarcusMcCarthy6.

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