Students Don’t Support Honor Code

A UVa committee has conducted a survey of 257 students and their beliefs about the honor system, and the results are disappointing, Melanie Mayhew reports in today’s Daily Progress. Only 39% of respondents said that they would be willing to report a clear violation of the honor code. Half of respondents are unwilling to report because they simply don’t want to be involved with it. It should be noted that the respondents are self-selecting — the survey was sent to 1,000 students, and only 257 replied.

03/29 Update: In their lead edit today, The Cavalier Daily takes aim at The Daily Progress for their editorial condemning UVa students.

7 thoughts on “Students Don’t Support Honor Code”

  1. The survey’s results ring true to me. Most of the students I’ve taught here look at me as if I am tri-headed when I ask if they would report a fellow student for an honor violation. They figure it’s none of their business.

    Currently the vast majority of honor violations are initiated by faculty or TAs. That, to me, means that the honor system is not doing what it is supposed to do. It is supposed to enable a community of trust, but if it’s mostly teachers reporting students, then it’s just another police state. There’s a sense of randomness to the cases that get reported and go to trial–it all depends on who you have for a teacher (many profs and TAs don’t believe in the single sanction either and will apply their own punishments for honor-eligible actions).

    A question: what is self-selecting about 257 actual replies out of 1000 possible replies? The 257 who replied were obviously more interested in replying than the 743 who did not, but does that make it self-selecting? I thought self-selecting meant that the population that replied was more likely to respond a certain way…just the fact that not all 1000 replied doesn’t seem to be the same thing. Doesn’t every survey have a certain # of nonresponses?

  2. I think that a) the honor code is almost universally followed and respected and b) it’s unlikely that most students would report violations.
    I graduated from UVa a few years back, and never knew anyone (including myself) who had cheated in any way. The one time I witnessed cheating, I spied a a girl in my Bio class looking at another’s test. I certainly didn’t report her, so I guess I was among those not upholding the system.

  3. A more valid survey would ask people if they wanted to take a survey and, if they choose to participate, then they are presented with the questions. In this case, people were presented with all of the questions and they were left to respond if they saw fit. A totally self-selecting survey would be one that was sent out to nobody, but perhaps posted on the front page of UVa’s website. This one is about in the middle the self-selection scale, I suppose.

  4. hey Cecil(2), do you know I have the copyrights on the numbers besides the name :P

  5. Well, probably just like you, I forgot my password and ended up having to re-register but I didn’t want to lose the name!

  6. I finally got around to reading the DP’s editorial. The only thing with which I take umbrage is this –

    Virginia is the only school with a single-sanction punishment for Honor Code violations.

    Not true. My alma mater, VMI, has has a single sanction honor code.

    If the accused is found guilty by the Honor Court, there is only one penalty – dismissal from the Institute.

    One’s Honor is a personal decision. When I meet someone familiar with the VMI’s system and honor code, that Code speaks volumes. An Honor Code is more than rules and enforcement. The students (or cadets) must buy into the system and value Honor as well. Shamefully, that does not seem to be the case with UVa’s students.

  7. UVa faculty are disillusioned with the Honor System as well. The penalty of a single sanction is so severe that many student juries simply will not convict and students who have been caught red-handed will do anything to avoid taking responsibility for their action(s). So faculty quickly lose faith and choose other ways of dealing with dishonesty in the classroom. The result is that the same violations are treated very differently, depending on the level of skepticism of the faculty member with regard to the honor system. A system that was in the hands of administrators would be fairer. But even if UVa sticks with a student-run approach to discipline — and I assume it will — implementing gradated punishments (in place of the single sanction) would result in a better functioning system hence greater support among faculty and students alike.

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