Should the Honors College draft an “Honor Code”?

This the question Clay Motley, Associate Director for Academics at the Honors College at WKU, raises after attending another session at the annual conference of the National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) yesterday afternoon in Boston:

“I am at a session focusing on whether Honors programs/colleges should have an “honor code” establishing a set of academic and ethical values for an honors communities, separate from that of the overall university.  The large majority of people at the session are Honors students, and most believe this is a good idea.  Some question why Honors students should be held to a different standard than non-honors students, but most feel that Honors students are members of a unique academic community and should be defined by high academic and personal integrity, even if it goes beyond what the university requires.

The Honors College at WKU is seriously considering drafting just such an “honor code,” with significant input from Honors students, Honors College leadership, and WKU’s Student Affairs.

Do you think this is a good idea? Why or why not?”

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4 Responses to Should the Honors College draft an “Honor Code”?

  1. Wolfgang Brauner says:

    I think this is a good idea because it expresses what I think we are trying to do, and it should make all of us more accountable. However, I would frame the values and standards not so much as different as perhaps ‘higher,’ though that doesn’t sound quite right either. Any suggestions?

  2. Anna Helton says:

    What standards, specifically, would such an honor code include that university policy does not already require?

  3. Elizabeth says:

    I am actually quite supportive of an Honor Code for the HC not as “higher” standards than those of the university, but as a set of shared standards for a particular community. I would like to see conversations around this and students, in conversation with faculty and administration, taking the lead on saying what they understand our shared commitments to each other to be as a social, intellectual, and educational community. Who are we? How do we understand our relationship to each other? When we take education seriously as a way of life, rather than something we do for a piece of paper or a credential, what does that imply about our commitments to our educational community? Since we are the Honors College, I would like to see students and faculty discuss what we mean by an Honor Code and what standards we’d like to set for ourselves and our community so that we can learn, explore, and grow well together.

  4. Clay Motley says:

    Hi, Anna. Nothing is set at all. In fact, there is not even a draft of an “honor code” for the Honors College. Given that, I can still give you a bit of an answer to your question. Currently, if an Honors student were to hypothetically commit plagiarism, cheat on an exam, or some other major academic violation, there is no mechanism to potentially punish the student from an Honors perspective. The student’s grade may suffer by failing the test/paper or course, but that may not necessarily affect his or her standing in the Honors College. Since we are a community of scholars, defined by our commitment to academic excellence, then the possible honor code would define standards of academic integrity for our community, probably where major academic violations are not tolerated. This is not being proposed due to any perceived problem, but rather we feel that it is important to define our community’s standards of academic integrity.

    Students will have plenty of opportunity to be involved with this process as it moves forward. In fact, four elected student representatives on the Honors Development Board will start working on it in the near future.

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