Students shrug at honor survey

After a recently released study revealed that nearly half of Duke students admit to some form of academic cheating, it comes as no surprise to many of them have been overwhelmingly numb to the survey's results.

"I've seen a lot of little acts of academic dishonesty, so I wasn't really surprised," said Alyssa Kneller, a Trinity senior. Many students echoed her sentiments, saying they either expected survey's results or did not think they reflected any serious problems.

"I think most of the academic cheating they were talking about was blown out of proportion," said Celli Hull, a Trinity freshman. "I think it's a problem, and I'm glad they're addressing the issue... but from what I've read so far they are taking the implications further than they need to."

Matthew Baugh, chair of the Honor Council, said students' apathy toward these results comes in part from having a weak honor code.

"I think we've all known for some time that the current honor code is ineffective," the Trinity junior wrote in an e-mail. "But it's important to point out that not all honor codes are a joke. We can make the honor system work at Duke if we got people talking about the kind of community they want to live and go to school in."

The inherent problem with the University's current honor system is that the students who are responsive to it have no faith in it, partly because of the large number of their peers who participate in a form of academic dishonesty. Then, with no backing to it, even more students are willing to push the code's integrity to the wayside.

"My dad went to the Naval Academy, and he always talked about how he could give a couple hundred dollars to any random student, ask him to give it to someone, and then trust him to do it," said Kneller. "It clearly isn't like that here."

Alana Lewis, a Trinity junior, noted that the honor code is not pushed as a community initiative, causing much of its ineffectiveness. "I just don't feel it has much of a presence," she said. "Generally it's something [professors] don't even mention."

Baugh, too, highlighted the line that divides the campus community on issues of honor. "While a good number of students may come into Duke receptive to living with an honor code, that potential is quickly crushed by the cynical comments about the reality of life at Duke that upperclassmen make," he said.

But students were not the only ones found out by the survey. Preliminary survey results indicated that only about half of the University's faculty members changes their tests regularly, compared with 72 or more percent at other schools.

"As a community, we just can't blame the students, but the teachers too," said Cassidy Lange, a Trinity freshman. "If the honor code was more prominent, I think it would be more effective."

Suzanne Lieb, another Trinity freshman, said that, in her experience, students' cheating patterns depend on the classroom environment a professor creates.

"I can't really tell if cheating is there, but it also depends on the class," said Lieb. "I've had some classes where there is rampant cheating, and others where there is none at all. The teacher is the most important aspect of that."


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