Understanding the Honor Code

Since her arrival at Stanford a year ago, Susan Fleischmann, associate dean of student life and director of the Office of Community Standards (OCS), has been talking to students and faculty members about the Honor Code.

The OCS, which is part of Student Affairs, administers the student conduct system through which alleged violations of the Honor Code – as well as the Fundamental Standard, which sets the standard for student conduct – are heard.

Susan Fleischmann
Susan Fleischmann

Fleischmann recently shared with Stanford Report some of the insights she has gleaned from listening to students and faculty members over the past year.

What have you learned through your outreach and communication with students?

While students are generally supportive of the Honor Code, there is a lot of room to improve student understanding of what the Honor Code means.  Students don’t really discuss the Honor Code with each other, and it’s not generally part of their daily thoughts and lives. Typically, they only think about it when they sign their names under the Honor Code statement on the front of exam blue books.

Some students do not realize that the Honor Code requires them to report violations. We need to remind those students of their responsibility. And for those students who do understand that this is part of the Honor Code, they often do not think it is a realistic requirement because they feel that the social cost for reporting peers is too high.

Many students think the Honor Code as written is not applicable to current courses and teaching methods and is difficult to follow, given the collaboration that is encouraged in many of their classes.

Students feel that it is difficult and/or impossible to avoid being found responsible for a violation of the Honor Code once it has been reported to the OCS.  They are unaware that they can act on their own behalf in the process, that the OCS staff are objective and thorough in their approach to cases, and that if they contest the allegations a panel of students, faculty and staff will decide their case.

We can do a lot to supplement the information about the Honor Code that students receive during New Student Orientation.

In essence, the Honor Code asks Stanford community members to practice several important values: honesty, integrity and accountability. By fulfilling the Honor Code, students learn to speak up for what is right, which is a valuable lesson that extends beyond their time at Stanford.

Read the entire Stanford Report article here.