Cheating, it can be argued, has been with us since the Garden of Eden. Thanks to the “search” feature, the Internet has increased the possibilities for students to borrow other people’s work and present it to professors as their own.
Most Iowa colleges respond by notifying students of their ethical requirements and spelling out what constitutes plagiarism and cheating.
The University’s Tippie College of Business has taken a different tack. Since 2001, the college has had an official Honor Code—suggested, developed, and monitored by students. (Read it at www.biz.uiowa.edu/upo/honorcode.html.)
The code places the responsibility to uphold personal integrity on every member of the college. It asks students to report violations, saying: “A person who stands by and does nothing when confronted with academic dishonesty threatens the spirit and effectiveness of the principle of academic honor.”
“Our honor code is widely publicized,” says Nancy Hauserman, associate dean of undergraduate programs. “It is on our web site, it is in our admission letters, and students are told that their acceptance of admission binds them to the code. We put it on the kiosks in the building and in our regular newsletter to students, faculty, and staff. We ask faculty to put a reference to it in their syllabi and we send faculty suggested inserts on cheating.”
Since students frequently work in teams, the code gives students the responsibility to have the instructor spell out which parts of each assignment must be done collaboratively and individually.
It challenges instructors to make requirements clear and to back students who report code infringements. It specifies several steps to check on allegations, including a possible appearance before a student/faculty judicial board that can hold hearings and recommend punishments if warranted. The final decision on punishment is made in the dean’s office.
However, in its first two years, only one case had come before the judicial board.
“The judicial board, composed of only undergraduates at the time, heard its first case this past spring,” says Amy Bartachek, assistant director of undergraduate programs. “As a result, the board came to realize some major additions and changes needed to be made to the honor code to make it more effective. This includes everything from the amount of time a student has to appeal a faculty member’s decision about cheating to holding students accountable who don’t report an incident of cheating.”
One change expanded the board to include undergraduates and graduate students. However, if a case comes before the board, only the accused person’s peers hear it—for example, an undergraduate’s case is heard by undergraduates.
“The board also will plan programs to educate all faculty, staff, and students in the college about what their rights are under the honor code and what cheating or plagiarism is,” Bartachek says. “The board is not just a governing body that hears cases when needed. The entire board will be meeting with faculty, going into classrooms, and writing articles in our Bottom Line Newsletter, to educate students about the honor code.
“Honestly, we still have a lot of work to do to make faculty and students more aware of the honor code, but I feel we made huge strides this past year with the changes we’ve made to move forward and educate more people—and hold more people accountable,” she says.
By Anne Tanner