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Honor Code may change

Maureen Reynolds | Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Faculty Honor Code Officer Thomas Flint said he would not be surprised if discussion of possible changes to the Honor Code came up at the first University Honor Code Meeting, slated to take place sometime in the near future.

“It seems very likely that the current code isn’t working in the way it calls for,” said Flint, a Notre Dame philosophy professor.

Flint wrote two letters to The Observer two weeks ago on the subject of Honor Code violations. One decried the suspected number of violations by students and the faculty inconsistencies in dealing with them. The second proposed changes that may be made to rectify the situation.

Flint said he believes students are cheating and not getting caught, and faculty are handling Honor Code violations on their own.

Faculty members, Flint said, have a “mixture of motives” for handling things by themselves. He said they believe they are avoiding “what looks like a complicated bureaucratic situation” by not reporting Honor Code violations, and that faculty members also believe they are “looking out for the student so a violation won’t be on their record.”

Flint, however, said faculty members also do not report incidents because they do not want to relinquish control over their students and the grades they receive.

“I think professors are reluctant to surrender what power they have. It’s not a particularly nice trait, but I think it’s accurate,” Flint said.

The main problem with this practice, Flint said, is that it creates the opportunity for students to repeatedly commit Honor Code offenses because there is no record of their violations. Under the Honor Code, students who commit a second violation would usually be suspended or dismissed from the University. If faculty members do not report incidents, however, students can violate the Honor Code repeatedly and never have any ultimate penalty.

“Faculty who fashion private penalties are opening the door to the possibility of serial offenders,” he said.

Faced with this problem, Flint believes there is a possible solution, albeit a somewhat radical one.

He said he would like to propose a system in which professors are explicitly permitted to negotiate penalties for Honor Code violations directly with students. In this system, not every case would go directly before an honesty committee.

The catch would be that faculty members would be required to submit a report of the violation and penalty the student sustained to the Associate Provost’s Office for record keeping. In this way, Flint said there would be a record of students who committed offenses.

“At least if this was made an appropriate or acceptable option, there would be some sort of check on those who are [violating the Honor Code] repeatedly,” he said.

Flint said feedback to his proposal has been positive.

“I’ve received a lot of feedback from faculty … I haven’t had one faculty member who has clearly opposed this proposition,” he said.

Any changes recommended by the University Honor Code Committee must be passed be the University’s Academic Council.