Honesty and the Honor System
a faculty member or TA, your academic honesty begins with your commitment
to teaching: your desire to continue life-long learning and your motivation
to instill that desire in students. You must be willing constantly to
improve your expertise by conducting appropriate research and to bring
its questions, implications, and excitement into the classroom. Commitment
to self-improvement combines with selfevaluation: How well do you know
the subject matter, and how well do you convey it? On a pragmatic level,
academic honesty vis-à-vis students begins with "Preparing
a Course" and continues through "Interacting with Students"
in an intellectually honest way to "Evaluating Students' Work."
Academic honesty vis-à-vis colleagues means scrutinizing data and
conclusions before reporting them and acknowledging in research presentations
all cooperative effort, no matter how minor.
honesty is a vital ingredient in the University of Virginia Honor System,
a structure maintained by the students since the 1840s (see details at
http://scs.student.virginia.edu/~honor). Within the Honor System, students
are understood to live in a community of trust, that is, to be trustworthy,
honest, and committed to the ideal that a person's word is his or her
bond. A student who breaches the system can be expelled. As faculty members
and TAs, you do not participate in governing the system directly; by taking
a teaching position at U.Va., however, you accept a proviso that you understand,
accept, and comply with the word and spirit of the Honor System.
take advantage of Honor System procedures. Required or implied for all
written work done by students of the University of Virginia, the standard
Honor Pledge reads:
my honor as a student, I have neither given nor received aid on this
your students, especially first-year students, of the pledge; show that
you take the Honor System seriously.
- Make clear
the acceptable parameters of assignments. Revise the Honor Pledge to
correspond to specific assignments or exams. If you recommend, for instance,
multiple drafts in consultation with a writing tutor or editor, have
students clearly acknowledge such help: "On my honor as a student,
I have received editorial help from the following people: . . ."
- State requirements
unambiguously in writing. For example, for a timed take-home assignment,
state explicitly whether students are to return the project within four
hours, have four hours to finish once begun, or can spend a total of
four hours, working in shorter blocks of time. Is any required typing
time part of the four hours?
the temptation to cheat. Create entirely new exams, and distribute previous
exams so that students have equal access to your format and style. Guard
copies of current exams scrupulously. Require that students submit early
drafts of written assignments with their final copy.
plagiarism. Many students do not understand it completely, and even
more do not know standard citation rules until you teach them. Good
examples and finite rules appear in the booklet "Academic Fraud
and the Honor System," available from the Honor Committee (924-7602)
or online at http://scs.student.virginia.edu/~honor/proc/fraud.html.
- You may
choose to remain in an exam room if you wish. By being there you can
answer students' questions and post the time for those without watches.
But you should never give the impression that you don't trust your students.
you suspect a case of cheating, consult immediately with your course supervisor,
department chair, faculty representative to the Honor Committee, or student
Honor Advisor. If you plan to pursue the matter, do not approach the student
directly; by doing so, you would eliminate the student's right to conscientious
retraction, a voluntary admission of responsibility that absolves the
student of guilt under the Honor System. You should also have read about
and understood the Honor System as explained by the Honor Committee. Questions
of discipline for honor violations are a student responsibility, delegated
to them by the Board of Visitors; each case is a question of fact.
System does, however, recognize that instructors have sole authority over
grading in their courses. If you have irrefutable evidence that a student
cheated or committed plagiarism consciously, you may grade that piece
of work as you deem appropriate. But be aware that what looks like strong
evidence may prove inconclusive. Faculty grievance committees investigating
students' appeals of failures in cases of suspected cheating have disagreed
with instructors' evaluation of "evidence." Consider facts meticulously
before assigning final grades. In short, heed Polonius' admonition: "To
thine own self be true." By being honest with yourself and your students,
you maintain academic integrity.