Honor Committee plans to hold focus groups
The Honor Committee will host a series of focus groups this spring to discuss the current disciplinary policy for students caught working over time during examinations, Honor Committee chair Antonia Hyman ’13 announced in an op-ed published Wednesday in The Daily Princetonian.
The announcement followed an email sent Monday by the Committee to the student body reminding them of their collective responsibilities under the Honor Code.
“Please pay attention to and abide by your professors’ policies about when examinations are finished,” the email read. “Working past time to gain points is unfair to classmates who stop when time is called.”
Though Hyman did not reveal the number of students who have been accused or penalized for working over time, citing student privacy, she said in an interview that the Committee made the decision in response to a noticeable trend on campus.
“When I wrote the article, really I was addressing a larger trend which I think is appropriate to bring up,” she said. “Over the last three to four years, the committee has seen an increase in the number of reports that have to do with writing over time.”
Associate Dean of Undergraduate Students Victoria Jueds, who serves as the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students’ liaison to the Honor Committee, said she had not been involved in the decision to host focus groups and thus was unable to comment on the matter.
Hyman explained that, unlike looking at a neighbor’s test, taking a few extra moments at the end of an exam is an unfair advantage that is not as easy to judge.
“Time cases are very sensitive in general, and that’s what I was trying to allude at in the article,” Hyman said. “So we look at a variety of factors in time cases.”
One factor the Committee currently considers and will raise in the focus groups is whether an accused student should have known that time was called on a particular occasion, Hyman said. She noted that a professor might tell students to “finish up” rather than announce that the examination time has expired or demand that students put their pencils down. This uncertainty, along with any previous impressions regarding the norms of the class, may confuse the student or give the student unintended permission to keep writing, she added.
“I think it’s really important that you contextualize these cases within the class,” Hyman said. “With these cases, you can’t compare one case of going over time to another class because it depends on how the professor operates and those things that are class-specific.”
In addition to discussing the current policy for working over examination time limits, the focus groups will consider the severity of the penalty for the infraction, which is treated as an instance of cheating. According to the Honor Committee’s Constitution and “Rights, Rules and Responsibilities,” the current minimum punishment for a student convicted of cheating is a one-year suspension.
“I think it’s really, really important that whatever path we do pursue has the backing of the student body,” Hyman said. “I want to make sure I have input from the students before we decide on a course of action. If it turns out that students really think that one year is inappropriate then I’m not against doing that.”
She added that the Honor Code should be reflective of the values of the school and the student body.
“If it’s not a code for the students by the students, then you get Harvard and you have all those issues, you know, where there’s not buy in,” Hyman said.
Hyman said she hopes to begin holding the focus groups around April 1, and that all interested students are invited to participate.
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