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Honor discussion slated for spring

What is the state of academic integrity at Duke? Students and faculty will now have to wait until March to find out.

When Ethics and Integrity Week comes around next month, the University will finally be able to release the results of the academic integrity surveys it distributed during the fall semester. Those involved with the project said Duke will then begin discussions on possible long-term changes to the Honor Code, including a social integrity component and unproctored exams.

The surveys, which polled students, faculty and administrators, were supposed to be tabulated by the end of December, but the results are being held from public release because of an agreement with the organization in charge of the national project. The University originally participated in the project as one of 12 schools that agreed to examine academic integrity issues on their campuses.

In addition to the presence of the Center for Academic Integrity on campus, the survey is "a further prompt for us to look at academic integrity on our campus," Dean of Trinity College Robert Thompson said in an interview last semester.

The examination of issues such as cheating and the enforcement of the Honor Code is not only an administrative effort, though. The Honor Council, chaired by Trinity junior Matthew Baugh, has begun a cooperative look at academic integrity along with the Undergraduate Judicial Board and the Academic Integrity Assessment Committee.

Additionally, the faculty Arts and Sciences Council has declared academic integrity a key priority for the year, but is holding off on its discussion until the survey results are released.

Until the survey results are formally released, Baugh and others are discussing the results privately in preparation for a full review of all University-related integrity issues, which will feature recommendations from the group. "The March report will include our evaluation of these topics as well as a look at educational programming and curricular initiatives," Baugh said.

In March, the national directors of the project, including Sally Cole, director of the Duke-based Center for Academic Integrity, will be on hand to discuss not only Duke's individual trends, but to compare those with the national results.

"In all, we hope that the campus will have an opportunity not only to find out what the results of the survey were but also what they mean for our future direction," Baugh said.

He said he plans to use the results to re-examine Duke's Honor Code. The six-year-old code has been criticized as weak for separating academic integrity from social integrity and for being limited to undergraduates.

"In the spring discussions, we're going to introduce the social integrity issues for the first time in the context of our purely academic honor code," said Baugh. "We plan to devote serious attention to the question of whether the Honor Code needs to be reformed."

A plan is also in progress to develop a guide that faculty can use to address academic integrity issues in their classrooms, and which will detail the proper use of the judicial board. "We hope the guide will help raise the prominence of the Honor Code in the classroom," Baugh said.

But the most radical change could be a move toward unproctored exams, an idea that will require scrutiny from students, faculty, and administrators alike. Many faculty are uncomfortable with the idea, said chemistry professor Steven Baldwin, chair of the Arts and Sciences Council.

"I think the whole thing will get tied up in the judicial code," he said. "You're going to have some faculty reluctant unless students are willing to take some responsibility."

Under the current judicial code, students are not required to report cheating or other breaches of the Honor Code, and self-policing among the student body is virtually nonexistent.

In schools with strong honor codes, Baugh said, "the community doesn't tolerate cheating because it fully stands behind a philosophical commitment to honesty and fairness. If Duke really wants a strong honor code, the community has to understand and promote that commitment."

Baugh said he does not think the campus community is ready to have unproctored exams but stressed that it would be a required first step to a strong honor code. He added that the issue will be a major topic of discussion in the spring review, and that with continued focus on integrity issues at Duke, unproctored exams may be able to become a reality in the near future.

"If we continue to press this issue as one of our top priorities, we really have the potential to serve as an important national example...," Baugh said. "In five years, when people think of the Duke community, I want them to think, 'intelligent, fun, honorable.'"

Dean's excuses will be another important issue, Thompson said. Currently, students are required to have a doctor's note whenever they miss an assignment due to illness. With a strong honor code, faculty would be required to take students' word that they were too ill to complete work. "As an ideal, people would like that," Thompson said, but he stressed that it would require a far stronger honor code than currently exists.

But in order to address any of these issues, Thompson said, the University community will need to wait for the survey's release, and work from there. "Lot of things are in the pot right now...," he said. "We're waiting to see if we're all going to get behind one."


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