January: Honor code insufficient in reducing academic dishonesty

in Monthly Editorial/Opinion by

During the first semester, the Student Improvement Committee worked on an Honor Code under the guidance of the administration, who expressed the need to reduce cheating. After it was completed, the Honor Code was implemented for the first time through mid-term exams this school year. However, even after signing a pledge before taking their mid-term, instead of reporting the leakage of the exam, some chemistry students completed the assessment with knowledge of the questions. When a new exam was administered later in the week, students complained, some even signing an online petition against it.

The focus of this incident should not be figuring out who to blame, but realizing that cheating can, and will occur again unless more effort is put into stopping it. Fortunately, there is room for improvement, specifically regarding the supervision of assessments and the consequences for cheating.

Often times, the lack of regulations in the classroom creates plenty of room for students to behave dishonestly. Students are free to keep their cellphones in their pockets when taking assessments, and they are free to leave to the bathroom during tests. Additionally, when taking online assessments, students can rely on the Internet for information to which they should not have access.

Furthermore, while the school outlines an academic integrity policy in the school handbook, it fails to provide clear information on the issue. In fact, there are two versions of the academic integrity policy in the same handbook, each with slightly different implications. This ambiguity in the policy is reflected in teachers’ methods of dealing with cheating. Because teachers deal with academic dishonesty in the classroom, the administration is often not informed of  cheating incidents.

The harsher policy at most colleges stand in stark contrast to SIS’s method of dealing with cheating. For instance, in 2012, more than 70 students were forced to withdraw from Harvard University for a semester after they were found guilty of cheating on a take-home exam. It is difficult to imagine something similar happening at this school. Not only do most cheating cases go by unreported, but the official consequences are also noticeably lenient. The first offense for cheating, according to the handbook, is a resubmission of the assignment for a maximum of 90, and a notification to the students’ clubs and honor societies.

Granted, college and high school serve different purposes. Some may say that high school should be a time for students to make mistakes, and learn from them. However, the current system contradicts this intention by teaching students that they can either get away with cheating or face minimal repercussions for it.

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