Faculty focus on Honor Code and Fundamental Standard

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Stanford’s Honor Code and Fundamental Standard outline expected conduct among students.

Greater campus attention needs to be paid to increasing awareness and understanding of the Honor Code, the university’s longstanding policy outlining expectations around academic conduct. That was the conclusion many members of the university’s Faculty Senate reached after a discussion designed to consider whether the Honor Code and the Fundamental Standard adequately serve the campus community.

The Honor Code, written by students in 1921, articulates the university’s expectations of students and faculty in “establishing and maintaining the highest standards in academic work.” It specifies that students will not give or receive aid in examinations or class work and will take an active role in ensuring that other students uphold the code. For their part, faculty express confidence in the honor of the students by refraining from proctoring exams and taking unusual or excessive precautions to prevent dishonest behavior.

The Fundamental Standard was developed in 1896 and articulates the university’s standards of conduct for students, who are “expected to show both within and without the University such respect for order, morality, personal honor and the rights of others as is demanded of good citizens.”

According to a survey conducted in 2016-17, about 10 percent of students admit to committing Honor Code violations and 50 percent have observed other students in violation of the code. Forty percent of faculty report suspecting an Honor Code violation in the last five years. Students admit to violations mostly on problem sets and computer code, while faculty are more likely to detect them on exams and papers.

The majority of students polled agreed they were “offended” and “harmed” by those violating the Honor Code, but were hesitant to report violations. Sixty-five percent reported taking no action after observing a fellow student violating the Honor Code. Among the reasons given were the belief that the violation was too minor, uncertainty about whether an infraction occurred and concerns about harming the violator.

The Office of Community Standards (OCS) is tasked with adjudicating violations of the Honor Code and Fundamental Standard. OCS processed the 207 cases referred to the office in the 2017-18 academic year, involving either the Honor Code or Fundamental Standard or both.

The vast majority of the cases (98 percent) were referred by faculty, teaching assistants and lecturers. Of the 180 Honor Code cases handled by OCS, 131 were charged. Twenty-six Fundamental Standard cases resulted in 14 charges. One case involved charges of violating both the Fundamental Standard and the Honor Code.

OCS cases are resolved through the early resolution option (ERO) or by judicial panels. ERO applies to all cases involving uncontested first-offense Fundamental Standard and Honor Code violations. Judicial panels are composed of trained students, faculty and staff who conduct hearings and determine whether a violation occurred and, if so, determine sanctions.

Of the 131 Honor Code cases charged in 2017-18, 109 were resolved through ERO, 12 were resolved through a judicial panel and 10 are still pending. Ten of the 15 Fundamental Standard cases charged were resolved through ERO, three through a judicial panel and two cases are still pending.

A wide variety of sanctions can be applied to redress student misconduct, ranging from community service to expulsion, as outlined in the Penalty Code.

Read the extended story in Stanford Report.