With Turkey Day just around the corner, “giving thanks” is a sentiment echoing in Duke’s halls. We’re thankful for the end of midterms, for a respite from school, for good food and even better friends. But such thanks—while important, and in the case of exams, much needed—is transient. Thanksgiving is fundamentally a reflection on community: on celebrating the people around us and the values that bring us together.

We are lucky that we constitute a  community that welcomes self-criticism in the prospect of personal growth. And we hope our previous columns have illustrated challenges and opportunities to improve academic integrity on campus—from unauthorized collaboration, to ambiguity on syllabi, to ethics in professional recruitment. But bringing these issues to light shouldn’t be considered evidence that dishonesty is rampant at Duke; rather, it is an opportunity to strengthen the standard our community has set for itself.

The vast majority of students do not engage in misconduct either in or out of the classroom. This is a fact that bears repeating considering that students’ perceptions of cheating at Duke is three times higher than self-reported instances or documented occurrences. This lack of faith in each other appears to be a bigger problem than cheating itself. Indeed, despite reporting high levels of misconduct, only three percent of students testify that they have ever reported instances of cheating—despite the Community Standard’s exhortation that accountability begins with each of us.

These two issues—that students don’t believe each other to be ethical, and are also unwilling to report true instances of misconduct—is the mindset the Honor Council hopes to challenge. But of course, this is easier said than done. One approach is education, which involves promoting the Community Standard through a “True-Blue” style session during O-Week, requiring students to complete the plagiarism tutorial at the beginning of each academic year and clarifying policies regarding collaboration on class syllabi. Another method is cultural, like making honor physical by installing plaques of the honor code into undergraduate classrooms as is seen in Fuqua and incorporating messages about the Community Standard into tours and programming for prospective students. Combined, these two strategies could help bring integrity to the forefront of the Duke experience.

However, this is easier said than done. If Duke students are already by-and-large honorable, some may ask if good is “good enough.” But norms don’t sustain themselves; unattended, they atrophy over time. The Community Standard is younger than most Duke students, yet we forget the role our peers and alums had in co-creating the codes the govern our campus today.

Undoubtedly, ethical behavior in and out of the classroom is the norm at Duke—and has been for a long time. But integrity doesn’t have an endpoint. The next evolution of our work as a community is to build upon the foundations of the past and transform our relationship with honor from passivity to activity. That means viewing honor as a practice you live daily rather than a statement you sign on during midterms season. 

How should we judge success?

The first steps are already being carried out, like tracking conduct violations over time, or assessing students’ awareness of the Community Standard and associated academic policies. But the real measurement of our morality won’t be of how we act while we’re here. The Community Standard is about more than just academic integrity; it’s about applicability and accountability. Our time in the Gothic Wonderland isn’t just for intellectual incubation; it’s an opportunity for courses and classmates to mold our character in preparation for the “real world.” We’re alums far longer than we are students, and a true testament to the inclusion of integrity into campus culture would be its translation into our lives beyond Duke.

But graduation lies in the future. In the present, we’re just thankful for the community we’ve built together—one that pushes us to pick more difficult rights in the face of easier wrongs. As break rolls around, there’s a lot to reflect on about our time at Duke. We hope that honor will be one of the things that’ll come to mind, with reflections on how far we’ve come as well as the work that’s yet to be done.

Duke Honor Council's column runs on alternate Fridays.