Editorial – Entrusting the Honor Code to Voters

By Middlebury Campus

Author: [no author name found]

Entrusting the Honor Code to Voters

After two months spent deliberating proposed changes to the Middlebury College Handbook language regarding the College’s Honor Code, the Community Council and the Student Government Association (SGA) are about to submit the revised language to a student referendum vote, in which three-quarters of students must approve the changes for the new language to go into effect. When this issue came to the forefront last spring, concerns arose over the possibility of the administration changing the Honor Code without going to a student referendum, and thereby removing the sense of ownership Middlebury students felt for the Honor Code. With last year’s concerns addressed by the administration, the student body has the ultimate responsibility of being informed about the proposed changes and then voting on them, knowing that the future of the Honor Code hinges on the consensus made by this current voting student body.

The first two structural reforms in the proposed Honor Code changes would outline all possible academic dishonesty offenses and clearly illustrate student and faculty responsibilities in upholding the Honor Code. Previously, the definitions for plagiarism, cheating and duplicate use of written work were not grouped together, hindering the ability to quickly reference the College’s descriptions of each offense. With the absence of clear faculty expectations and a hazy definition of student responsibilities, the Honor Code was not uniformly organized, but proposed revisions call for a more accessible and readable explanation of all facets of the Code.

The referendum calls for the restructuring of the current boards that hear cases of cheating (Student Judicial Council) and plagiarism (Judicial Review Board) into a single Academic Judicial Board, which would hear all cases of alleged academic dishonesty. While the Student Judicial Council is currently comprised of all students, this forum receives fewer cases than the Judicial Review Board, in which faculty hold a majority. In the proposed Academic Judicial Board, students will hold a four to two majority. Although the College may lose its student dominated board, students will be gaining power on the only board to review accusations of academic dishonesty, which provides for even more student influence in academic dishonesty cases.

The Handbook currently addresses students’ responsibilities in enforcement of the Honor Code as saying, “any member of the College community who is aware of an infraction of the honor system is morally obligated to report it.” The new Handbook language seeks to eliminate any interpretations of this by removing the “morally” from a Middlebury student’s academic honesty obligations. Morals inevitably vary from person to person, and it is necessary to redefine our responsibilities as students studying under an Honor Code. To receive the benefits of the Code, students, faculty and administration must respect the obligations placed upon them and honor the agreement to uphold the Code they signed when matriculating to Middlebury. By readdressing the language used to describe one’s obligation and closing the inherent gaps in individual morals, the College will be increasing the strength of the Honor Code.

Finally, the new language seeks to clarify how future changes to the Honor Code will be administered. Any amendments to the Honor Code itself will still be put to a student wide referendum, requiring an affirmative vote of three-fourths of all students registered for classes. Recommendations about altering the structure of other aspects of the judicial system, submitted by Community Council, the faculty or the Honor Code Review Committee, may be ratified without a student referendum by the Community Council, and then forwarded to the faculty for final approval. In allowing the Community Council to make structural, and presumably minor, changes to judicial boards, the problem of relying on majority student approval on issues of lesser importance is alleviated. At the same time, students will maintain an active voice in major proposals to the Code, a freedom which should be greatly valued. This is one of the pivotal changes in the Honor Code that will set the framework for the future.

We, the Campus editoral board endorse proposed changes to Honor Code language, and urge all students to cast an affirmative vote during spring term registration.