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Undergraduate honor code earns mixed marks for fall

Students and faculty are questioning the effectiveness of the University's new undergraduate honor code.

"I don't think that people really follow it, just from listening to people talk, I don't think that anyone takes it very seriously," said Trinity freshman Preston Thomas.

The honor code, which was first implemented last semester, does not mandate students to sign the code though individual faculty members may require students to sign it on tests and papers. All incoming freshmen beginning with the Class of 1998, however, will be required to sign the code prior to entering the University.

Trinity sophomore Eric Greitens, chair of the honor council, said that the honor code has helped reduce the number of students who cheat and plagiarize.

During the 1992-93 academic year, there were 10 plagiarism and 12 cheating cases brought before the Undergraduate Judicial Board, said Paul Bumbalough, assistant dean of student affairs. Ten of these 22 cases involved freshmen.

In fall 1993, the board heard two plagiarism and five cheating cases.

"So far, there haven't been any cheating cases with first-year students," Greitens said.

The honor council has worked to raise awareness in this year's freshman class. The council has held forums in freshman dorms and worked with freshman advisory counselors and residential advisers to better educate new students.

"There's a lot more consciousness of the problem of academic dishonesty than there was a year ago," said Bruce Payne, public policy studies lecturer. "I'll be pleased when the new blue books come out with the code for students to sign."

Next year, honor counselors will be matched with freshmen to inform them about the code. The honor counselors will be assigned sections in freshman dorms.

The honor council also plans on developing orientation projects during weekends when accepted students visit the University. Other awareness activities include lunches with faculty members and discussions centered on ethical issues.

The council plans to meet with faculty this semester to educate them about the new honor code. More faculty are asking questions about the code this semester than before, Bumbalough said.

"I don't see [that] we have any more or less problems than we've had before, but we've always had very few," said James Bonk, professor of chemistry, who does not ask his student to sign an honor statement.

Bonk has developed his own honor system. He has teaching assistants monitor students as they take exams and he distributes several versions of the same test to prevent cheating.

One part of the honor code asks students to notify professors of violations they see.

"I know when I'm taking a test I'm not personally scoping out the room for cheaters," said Trinity sophomore Julie Brashears.

Some professors disagree with the code because it permits students to report infraction anonymously.

"I won't accept any report of an honor infraction anonymously," said Reynolds Price, James B. Duke professor of English. "I think that it's immoral for an adult to engage in anonymous accusation of another adult."

The honor code, unlike codes at other schools, will not discipline students for not turning in their colleagues.

"We're trying to instill a sense of community and honor. We're not out to punish anybody or impose anything." Greitens said.


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