A (Shorter) Statement of Honor For UT

At the suggestion of President Powers, the UT Senate of College Councils has rewritten the way academic integrity is taught.

As cheating scandals sweep across national headlines and universities soul-search about how to emphasize integrity, UT is being proactive.

Last week, UT’s Senate of College Councils adopted and will recommend for approval a new University honor code it hopes students will find short enough to memorize.

The existing honor code, adopted in 2004 under UT President Larry Faulkner, reads: “The core values of The University of Texas at Austin are learning, discovery, freedom, leadership, individual opportunity and responsibility. Each member of the university is expected to uphold these values through integrity, honesty, trust, fairness and respect toward peers and community.”

According to Peter Paul Wong, co-chair of the Senate’s Academic Integrity Committee, the code “was more of a general statement. Students could agree with it, but they rarely took it to heart.”

President Bill Powers introduced the idea for restructuring the honor code last spring when he created a Honor Code Task Force to evaluate the effectiveness of the current code. “One thing needed was more student involvement in the implementation, or what you might call enforcement, of the honor code,” Powers said.

The new honor code, which has not yet been formally adopted, will read: “As a student of the University of Texas at Austin, I shall abide by the core values of the University and uphold academic integrity.”

Wong, who helped write the proposed new code, says that the process to create it was enjoyable, though it took two more General Assemblies than he and his co-chair initially predicted. “We didn’t want to create the Frankenstein of honor codes, ” Wong says, “but at the same time we wanted it to be direct and concise. We wanted to make sure we heard all the concerns and worries of each college.”

Wong hopes that because the new code is more concise, it will be more actionable. “Students can violate the older code without it being clear that they have,” he says. “The new code is concise and clear enough that Longhorns can really almost memorize it.”

This restructuring of UT’s honor code comes at a time when other prestigious schools across the country are struggling with issues of academic dishonesty. In August, Harvard University caught dozens of students collaborating on an independent take-home exam. Students at Stuyvesant High School were caught cheating in early September, and many faced suspension for their actions. This sort of retroactive revision of honor codes can have a negative effect on the perception of a university.

By making the honor code more concise, easier to remember, and easier to enforce, students will hopefully take the push for academic integrity to heart.

“I think with proper broadcasting and proper education, we can make students aware and pleased with the change,” Wong says.

Editor’s Note: Just a clarification: the new honor code has not yet been approved by the president or the faculty.

Photo by Taylor Barron. Courtesy the Daily Texan.


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