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Column: Community Standard explained

There has been considerable discussion regarding the implementation of Duke's new honor code-the Duke Community Standard-to be unveiled this fall. We would like to reinforce what exactly the Community Standard is and how it differs from the present Honor Code. The present Honor Code refers only to matters of academic integrity-that is, activities within the context of coursework. The present Fundamental Standard, found only in the official University bulletins, is a statement of values pertaining to behavior within and outside the classroom. Whereas the Honor Code has been highlighted, the Fundamental Standard has been "hidden." The purpose of the Duke Community Standard-which combines elements of both credos-is to highlight the values that should inform any notion of community and to set an expectation for behavior in an undergraduate's life at Duke as a whole. The Duke Community Standard includes three policies that differentiate it from the Honor Code: (1) Non-Toleration Clause, (2) One-Time Faculty-Student Resolution, and (3) Wider Range of Judicial Sanctions.

Non-Toleration Clause and Responsibility of Students: The Non-Toleration Clause, which applies in the case of suspected academic dishonesty, states, "I will not lie, cheat, or steal in my academic endeavors, nor will I accept the actions of those who do." This clause makes it clear that those students who observe others violating the academic aspects of the Duke Community Standard must not accept the action. In practice, this means the observing student is encouraged to approach the student in question and encourage him or her to self-report; that failing, the observer is to report the student to a faculty member or dean. With the current Honor Code, one is also expected to report but is allowed to give an obscure explanation of the event (something to the tune of "Professor X, someone in this class has cheated"), without ever mentioning his/her own name in order to preserve anonymity. This will no longer be the case as of fall 2003. When students report, they will be expected to give a signed statement with the name of the accused (if known) and their own name to the Dean of Students' office within one week of the event. The change is meant to enhance the student body's sense of responsibility for the overall climate of academic integrity at Duke. This strengthening of the current non-toleration clause may be the hardest for students to swallow, since reporting on one's peers runs counter to societal norms; however, recent events at WorldCom, Enron, and other organizations have shown the importance of calling a stop to unethical behavior, since such behavior is of consequence to the larger community.

One-Time Faculty-Student Resolution: Reserved for first-time offenses, the optional faculty-student resolution process is applied in cases of an academic integrity violation that, if forwarded to the judicial system, would likely result in a sanction less than suspension. The process is relatively simple: Once a professor has knowledge of an instance of dishonesty, if he or she wishes to engage in this process he or she must first contact the Dean of Students' office to ensure that the student is an appropriate candidate for a faculty-student resolution. The professor then presents his or her case to the student and offers a resolution (as one example, a reduced grade on the assignment), to which the student must respond within 48 hours. If the student accepts the resolution, the student signs the resolution form and it is then filed with the DOS; if the student does not accept the resolution, the case is automatically referred to the DOS for adjudication. This process is useful for resolving minor cases "in-house" and should be upheld fairly consistently given the clear boundaries of violations. The benefits are that this violation does not go on the student's reportable record (unless there is a second infraction), and the faculty and student can convert this problem into an important "educable moment."

Wider Range of Judicial Sanctions: In the past, sanctions for students who cheat and/or commit acts of plagiarism have often resulted in a standard two-semester suspension. A wider range of sanctions-now in effect-is more closely tied to the range of infractions. Just as there are gradations of breeches of academic integrity, so there are gradations of sanctions-from the assignment of reflection papers all the way up to expulsion. The perception of uniformity of sanctions need no longer obtain, and the educational value of all sanctions is emphasized.

Hope for Shared Responsibility and Trust: Many students hope that the heightened responsibility accorded to them by the Duke Community Standard will be met with a heightened degree of trust on the part of faculty. The Honor Council, in particular, would like more faculty to consider unproctored exams, especially in smaller classes, given that the requirement for faculty members to hold proctored exams was eliminated from the Faculty Handbook last year. We also hope that, with the support of the faculty, Duke Student Government and the Academic Integrity Council, and some creative new thinking on the subject, a revision of the current Dean's Excuse policy will not be long in coming.

Judith Ruderman is vice provost for academic and administrative services and chair of the Academic Integrity Council; Sandeep Kishore is a Trinity junior and chair of the Honor Council.