"Bound together by honor, let us go ever onward-with happy hearts and smiling faces," exhorted the 1926-1927 Handbook of Duke University. The University had been founded only a year earlier, West Campus was under construction, the stock market soared and the future must have looked blissful to our 1,428 undergraduates. We can resonate to such spirited optimism, even knowing, as we do, that it would be sorely tested in the years to come.

This ringing statement is part of a long history of efforts to strengthen the sense of honor among undergraduates. We had come a long way by 1957, when student leader Elizabeth Dole-then Hanford-championed a University-wide honor code. She told her peers, "To my mind, we have one major purpose in passing this code-the transfer of responsibility in this college community to the students themselves." Liddy Hanford was president of the women's Student Government Association; at that time, the men and women of Duke had separate governance organizations. The women were convinced; the men were not so sure, and the effort dissolved with the departure of her senior class.

Now fast forward to the year 2000. In the recent academic integrity survey, an administrator scribbled this anonymous comment: "As long as students feel the responsibility for academic honesty rests elsewhere (faculty, administrators) there can be no meaningful honor code here."

In the same survey, a student wrote this: "If the process begins with the instructor respecting the student's loyalty to the honor code and taking him at his word, then perhaps students will take it more seriously (as they come to view the Honor Code as something commanding respect and not just propaganda)."

Behind this respective prickliness lies an important truth: Both students and faculty feel that if those in the other group were really committed to a true honor code, we could bring it off; but as long as they doubt that commitment, they are unwilling to commit themselves. If we want a strong honor code at Duke (and many of us do), administrators and faculty must be able to take students' honor as seriously as we do their ideas and students must accept full responsibility for their actions.

Duke's Honor Code is modest in its expectations compared with the tough traditional codes on campuses like West Point or UVa. It is true that all students sign it, it is routinely posted and printed on walls and documents and it does bind students to demonstrate integrity in the pursuit of their intellectual endeavors and to encourage their peers to do the same. However, for many students and faculty members, the Honor Code is peripheral, elective and unclear in its expectations. Why is this so, and what are the obstacles to changing that reality?

One argument that you sometimes hear is that nobody cares about cheating anyway. "Everybody does it," most get away with it, and, "In a competitive environment, you do what it takes to win," as another survey respondent suggested. After all, in life after graduation, even if you do get caught, the penalties are usually mild. G. Gordon Liddy, an unrepentant Watergate conspirator in Richard Nixon's administration who is now a celebrated radio personality and writer, noted succinctly, "Of course crime pays." He should know. So why shouldn't Pete Rose be in the Baseball Hall of Fame even if he threw a few games to satisfy his bookie? He was still a great hitter, after all. And why shouldn't you fabricate lab results-as another student asked on the survey-when the falsification would simply make an equation or experiment work the way it is supposed to work in the first place? When such a culture is dominant around us, instilling a true honor code is an uphill battle. But there are very good reasons why an education based on shortcuts and fabrications-an education that involves cheating instead of learning-is no education at all. As the lab results example indicates, if you cheat to get the right answer but have no idea why it is true, you have gained no knowledge at all, which makes all the money your parents are spending-and your time at Duke-pretty much wasted. And in the real world, when you set out to build a bridge or craft a legal document or begin brain surgery, just knowing what the result is supposed to be is of mighty little use in making it happen; pity your poor clients!

Education is based on an implicit contract between teachers and students; both must have a genuine interest in conveying and learning, to the very best of their ability, knowledge that they believe to be true, and ways of discovering whether or not it passes various tests for truth. This is the whole point, and the end result, the "right answer," or the high grade all by itself are ultimately worthless substitutes.

If Duke is ever going to become "an honor code school," I think any approach to the cheating problem based on mutual distrust is doomed. The values promulgated by the Center for Academic Integrity-honesty, trust, fairness, respect and responsibility-lend themselves to a different approach and a different kind of community, the kind I would rather live in. Although cynics mock these concepts as "motherhood and apple pie" statements, they have held up well under the scrutiny of several thousand years of reflection and they will hold up under our own, if we can look without blinking.

I know it can be difficult to translate values into action. Acting out of respect, for example, requires professors to let students know clearly that they value and to expect honesty in the work done in their classes and to explain the groundrules for collaboration and use of sources. It also means providing honest feedback on students' work-which might include taking the time to discuss issues of suspected cheating (an uncomfortable topic, but crucial to making this system work). For students, respect includes showing up on time and prepared, and performing to the best of their ability, since they respect themselves as well as peers and teachers.

Responsibility means being personally accountable for what you know to be true, which implies taking action against wrongdoing. What action you take when you see somebody cheating may depend on many factors-you have many arrows in your quiver, from a quiet conversation with your classmate to filing formal charges. But in a climate of mutual respect and responsibility, turning a blind eye would no longer be an option. We can understand how a friend might succumb to temptation under time pressure or fear of failing; that calls for our compassion, but does not excuse the behavior.

In the end, academic freedom, a central pillar of higher education and ultimately of a free society itself, depends on academic integrity. With this week's release of the full survey results, I invite the entire Duke community to attend to and enter the lively dialogue that will ensue, whatever your opinion. And in the coming weeks, as you work on your final papers and prepare for exams, be mindful of the trust that your peers and professors have placed in you. You worked too hard to get into to Duke to cheapen your efforts, and so did they.

Nan Keohane is president of Duke.