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Students speak on Honor Code

, and | Friday, October 10, 2014

In many cases, the Honor Code is at most a peripheral part of many students’ academic experiences at Notre Dame.

20140412, 2013-2014, 20140412, Blue Gold Game, Football, Michael Yu, Notre Dame Stadium, The ObserverMichael Yu | The Observer
On their syllabi, many professors include the standard Honor Code pledge that reads “As a member of the Notre Dame community, I will not participate in or tolerate academic dishonesty.”

Before registering for their freshman year classes, students must pass an online quiz about what does or does not constitute a violation of the Honor Code.

And to upload an assignment to the Sakai online learning platform, many professors require that students check a box stating, “I have neither given nor received aid on this assignment” before the site will accept the submission.

Since Aug. 15, Notre Dame’s Honor Code – and the investigation process for suspected violations – have become the subject of national attention. The University announced five Irish football players would be held out of practice and competition as investigations into possible Honor Code violations played out, and no resolution to their cases has come to light yet.

The time frame for developments remains unclear since players could appeal any decisions, but for now, many students expressed concern about the toll the investigations have taken on the campus community.

“[The academic investigation] wouldn’t have happened this seriously if it were other students who were non-athletes,” freshman Adrianna Duggan said. “If they didn’t treat the athletes the same way as they would treat any other kid who went through the process, obviously that’s not fair.”

Given the high stakes and heavy publicity involved, some students said the process actually should be different for the players.

“It’s been kind of a kangaroo court,” senior Eddie Flood said. “Just the idea that [the players] would go into all these meetings without an attorney, but Notre Dame can call their own shots.

“The speed of the process too has been pretty alarming because these kids lose sleep every night not knowing what’s going to happen to them.”

Freshman Stephanie Reuter said she has only a general understanding of what an Honor Code violation would entail or how the investigation process would unfold.

“My brother went to [the University of Virginia], and a huge thing was the Honor Code. … He talked about it all of the time. It’s not quite talked about as much here,” she said. “Everyone knows about it, but I think it’s more you know about it in principle and not as much in practice and how it operates.

“Once the situation became public, I think it changed the [process].”

Junior Jon Wiese said he has an idea on how the investigation process works, but “not 100 percent.”

“There was definitely an issue in the very beginning when they obviously had trouble keeping things private because everyone knew before the University ever said anything,” he said. “I think that was the biggest problem.”

Several students said the ambiguity made them apprehensive of what it would be like to be involved in an investigation themselves as either witnesses, accusers or accused.

“You know what you are not supposed to do, but you don’t know what happens,” Duggan said. “I just don’t know how this whole situation was handled.”

“It’s nice that [the administration] is respecting their privacy and treating them like every other student,” junior Connor Judson said. “But … it should be innocent until proven guilty, and they have been treated like they are guilty, hence why they have missed five weeks.”

Freshman Meghan Freeman went through the online Honor Code training just a few months ago and said, “Nobody really talks about it, you just sign it.”

“There was an Honor Code thing you read, but you don’t really actually talk about the Honor Code,” she said. “We had so many talks when we came in for our orientation, but they never really talked about the Honor Code. I think they just assumed that everything we signed our names to over the summer, automatically you read it and understood it.”

While the students involved were more high-profile than an average case, Freeman said it’s important to remember “they’re still students.”

“I feel like that’s not everyone’s business,” she said. “They’re still students of the University, and they still have some right to privacy.

“Just because they are on the sports team doesn’t mean that if they are in trouble that they should be broadcasted.”

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About Ann Marie Jakubowski

Senior News Writer, formerly Editor-in-Chief. English and Spanish double major, minor in journalism, ethics and democracy. Grand Rapids, Mich., native. Notre Dame Class of 2015.

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  • nublet

    Some of these people are acting like we need to talk more about the honor code. If you got in to Notre Dame, you should be able to understand it. Theres no need for constant discussion. Its pretty straight forward. Essentially its just dont cheat, do your own work. If you honestly cannot understand that, you probably dont belong at ND.

    It is ridiculous how long this process has taken though. This would probably have been resolved for normal students within a week or two. Its also really unfair as some of the athletes are planning on going to the NFL and the school is essentially ruining their job interviews.

  • Alum

    Glad that the University’s flawed “Community Standards” process is finally coming to attention. This isn’t the first time they have unfairly dragged out a process holding students in limbo and it won’t be the last. Time for the school to get serious about this process as well as the flawed policies in Housing that are driving kids off campus at an alarming rate.

  • POV

    Community members should
    be mindful that there were two concerns raised in these cases. The first, as
    discussed in President Jenkins’ address to the faculty on September 16, 2014
    (http://president.nd.edu/writings-addresses/2014-addresses/presidents-annual-address-to-the-faculty/),
    was the possibility of an NCAA regulations compliance violation. This concern
    was investigated by the Office of General Counsel. It appears that, as a result
    of that investigation, allegations of honor code violations were raised. Those
    allegations were handed off at the conclusion of the NCAA-related investigation
    at the end of August and then adjudicated in accordance with the undergraduate
    honor code policy. It is probable
    that the rumors that caused the university to publicly disclose the names of
    the players occurred before the honor code process was initiated.

    Constituting
    the honesty committee(s) for five cases, identifying times when faculty and
    student committee members, accused students, course instructors, and other
    invited witnesses were all available to meet, and holding five hearings
    necessarily would have taken some time. If there was considerable evidence,
    that also would have required time for careful and thorough consideration by
    the committee(s). Following a notification to each student of the committee’s
    decision, there would be an additional 7 days in which each student who was
    found responsible could have appealed the decision. The 5-6 weeks that the
    honor code process took was probably not unreasonable given the suggested
    complexity of these cases.

    The
    fact that the athletes were kept out of practice and competition would not have
    been a result of the honor code allegations, since such action is not consistent
    with the policy. Further, the decision to remove the student athletes from
    sports participation was made before the cases were referred to the honesty
    committee(s). One might imagine that, if the university held to a different honor
    code standard for student-athletes, there would have been at least a few cases
    that would have presented over the years in which an athlete was not permitted
    to play. It is doubtful that such evidence exists. The undergraduate honor code
    policy treats all students in the same manner; the policy and process make no
    distinctions based on extracurricular activities. The policy is clear on the
    typical consequences of first and second violations. Recent history suggests that Notre Dame administers
    the honor code policy fairly, equitably, and without partiality.

    An
    important take-away from this experience is that the ND community should pay more
    attention to the importance of academic integrity. Undergraduates who glossed
    over the online tutorial and post-test on the honor code, and who now claim
    that they do not understand it, should review the policy at http://honorcode.nd.edu/.
    If it’s still unclear, ask questions. Do not turn a blind eye to classmates who
    violate the honor code. Instructors
    should discuss academic integrity and clearly articulate expectations and consequences with
    respect to collaboration (or avoidance of collaboration) on assignments in
    their course syllabi and in the classroom. There are lessons that should be learned.