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Dec. 12 began the voting period for the four referenda on the Honor Code Constitution. The first referendum calls for a degradation of standard penalty for violations of the Honor Code on in-class examinations from a one-year suspension to disciplinary probation until graduation. We would like to provide some additional information and raise a number of questions that students should consider as they think about how they will vote on this referendum.

Discipline at the University is delegated to the faculty. The faculty in turn grants students the right to self-adjudicate violations of academic integrity on in-class examinations. Violations of academic integrity are dealt with by two bodies, the Faculty-Student Committee on Discipline, which adjudicates all other violations of academic integrity, and the Honor Committee. While the two bodies are separate, there exists a parallelism between them. It would not be fair to have radically different penalties for almost identical violations across these two committees. If a student copies code from GitHub on a COS 126 assignment, and another student copies code from GitHub on an in-class programming exam, their penalties should reflect the fundamental similarity of their actions. Under this reform, the student who copies code on the in-class programming exam would be on disciplinary probation until graduation, and the student who copies code on the assignment would be suspended for a year. So, if this reform passes, we must then ask if we can encourage the faculty and the Committee On Discipline to accept a modified standard penalty across the board. Inviting the faculty and administration to be involved in a discussion about standard penalty is fundamentally different than approaching the faculty with a changed Constitution and asking them to accept the change and lower penalty across the board.

Furthermore, in the current paradigm, Honor Committee penalty is gradated. In 2012, the Honor Committee, in conjunction with the Undergraduate Student Government and the student body, modified standard penalty for writing overtime on in-class examinations to disciplinary probation until graduation. The impetus behind this change was the idea that a student who writes one minute overtime on an in-class examination where the expectation is that students drop their pencils at the time call should receive a lesser penalty than the student who leaves the classroom and searches for answers in the bathroom. There is a distinction between a temporal advantage gained and a substantive one. Under this new reform, this gradation would not exist; instead, a system of standard leniency would be instituted. We think the question of standard penalty should be discussed. We believe that there are ways to distinguish among different types of violations in order to create a fairer gradated system of penalty. These, among others, are the kinds of questions that a task force in the spring with representatives from all relevant parties can ask and evaluate.

We encourage students to read materials presented from both the proposition and opposition parties and think critically about these issues. The magnitude of the changes that these referenda would bring about are significant. We encourage you to discuss these issues with your friends, peers, and professors, and reach out to us with questions, thoughts, and concerns.


Carolyn Liziewski ‘18, Honor Committee Chair     

Elizabeth Haile ‘19, Honor Committee Clerk

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