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Student senate discusses academic honor code

| Thursday, January 26, 2017

In this week’s session of the Notre Dame student senate, Hugh Page, dean of the First Year of Studies and vice president and associate provost for undergraduate affairs, took the floor with student members of the University Code of Honor Committee to discuss the ongoing review of the Academic Code of Honor.

“One of our goals is to try and do a fairly thorough rewriting of the Honor Code but before we do that we figured that it was really important for us to solicit feedback from as wide a cross section of students as we can, and also to solicit feedback from faculty,” Page said.

Page spoke of the student survey that was distributed this past fall as well as a faculty survey, the results of both indicating the need for further conversation among the entire academic community, which the committee plans to facilitate through a series of focus groups. The members of the senate broke into smaller committees to discuss what kinds of questions would be most relevant in the discussions of the upcoming focus groups.

Committee member Nate McKeon, a senior, led discussion about the clarity of the Code of Honor.

“How clear is [the Code] in defining actual academic dishonesty, like, you know, if you’re going into an assignment or an exam, do you have a good grasp on what academic dishonesty is?” McKeon asked.

Students shared a common concern in deciphering the grey areas of academic dishonesty. All agreed that while copying the answers of another student on a final exam is an obvious violation of the Honor Code, there is more ethical ambiguity in collaborating on homework assignments, projects and small quizzes.

Sophomore Dillon Hall senator Tim O’Connell said further obscurity arises when considering the distinct styles of learning and teaching in different fields of study and said a large part of the responsibility falls on the professors to clearly delineate their expectations.

“We as a group thought it was more of the professor’s job to kind of outline,” O’Connell said. “[In engineering] we think there’s a lot of not so much of a grey area on the homework because professors are usually, ‘Hey, work on the homework together just turn in your own,’ and then for tests it’s pretty obvious, just do your own. … We had some kids in Arts and Letters and Mendoza who thought it was kind of more of a grey area ’cause they have a lot more, kind of multiple choice, Sakai quizzes.”

In fact, whether the professors should claim responsibility in clarifying their interpretations of the Code or the students should be expected to apply the code in a “one size fits all” mentality was a popular point of discussion. McGlinn senator, sophomore Maria Palazzolo, said her group was surprised to learn the professors did not share their own opinions on the code. 

“We said we think it’s more of the professor’s job to say for the specific class, because it’s different for each class what they would want or how it works,” Palazzolo said. “ … But Natasha, who facilitated the discussion, said that the professors think it’s the student’s job. So it’s a miscommunication that needs to be fixed.”

Additionally, the ease of obtaining increasingly common online resources further complicates the issue of cheating, as sophomore and Cavanaugh Hall senator Brittany Benninger said.

“We talked about online resources, if you will, so like those sites where you can buy tests … how does that play into the new Honor Code?” Benninger said.

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