Faculty Guide to the Honor System
- The Honor System at Vanderbilt
- Honor Council Jurisdiction
- Honor Code Violations
- Faculty Role in the Honor System
- Reporting a Violation
- Honor Council Process
- Faculty Resources and Sample Syllabus Statements
- Contact Information
THE HONOR SYSTEM AT VANDERBILT
The Vanderbilt Honor System was instituted in 1875 with the first final examinations administered by the University. The Honor System has two key components: (i) the Honor Code, which unifies all students of the University as they strive for personal and academic integrity, and (ii) the individual honor councils, which are comprised of students and overseen and supported by the University (for undergraduates) as well as each graduate and professional school. Learning the Undergraduate Honor Code Pledge is one of the first steps incoming undergraduate students take in becoming a part of the Vanderbilt University community. The goal of the Honor System is to have all students leave Vanderbilt not only as graduates, but also as citizens of integrity.
Statement of the Honor Code
“Vanderbilt University students pursue all academic endeavors with integrity. They conduct themselves honorably, professionally and respectfully in all realms of their studies in order to promote and secure an atmosphere of dignity and trust. The keystone of our honor system is self-regulation, which requires cooperation and support from each member of the University community.”
Undergraduate Honor Code Pledge
“I pledge to pursue all academic endeavors with honor and integrity. I understand the principles of the Honor System, and I promise to uphold these standards by adhering to the Honor Code in order to preserve the integrity of Vanderbilt University and its individual members.”
A short-form version of the Undergraduate Honor Code Pledge, to be signed on all tests, quizzes, and similar work is: “I pledge on my honor that have neither given nor received unauthorized aid on this examination.”
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HONOR COUNCIL JURISDICTION
Each honor council is organized by its respective institution or school and is an organization of students. The aim of the honor council is to secure justice for any student under suspicion of dishonesty, to vindicate his/her/their name if innocent and, if guilty, to protect the honor and standing of the remaining students.
Undergraduate students are subject to the jurisdiction of the Undergraduate Honor Council.
The policies and procedures of the undergraduate Honor System apply to all students enrolled in undergraduate courses, including those that involve, whole or in part, online learning, of all the schools and the Division of Unclassified Studies, whether full-time or part-time, or whether regularly enrolled, transient, or cross-registered from a neighboring institution.
Graduate and professional students are subject to the jurisdiction of the student body that implements the Honor System in the graduate and professional schools: School of Graduate Studies Honor Council, Student Honor Council of the School of Medicine, Honor Council of the Law School, Divinity School Honor Council, Honor Council of the School of Nursing, Owen Graduate School of Management Honor Council, and Peabody Honor Council (for students in professional programs at Peabody College).
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HONOR CODE VIOLATIONS
Possible violations are listed below followed by further explanation. Violations include, but are not limited to, the following:
• Giving and/or receiving unauthorized aid
• Unauthorized submission of work prepared for another course
• Falsifying records
• Falsifying results of study and research
• Altering previously graded work for a re-grade
• Any action designed to deceive faculty, staff, or other students
• Submission of work prepared by commercial or noncommercial agents as one’s own
• Failure to report a known or suspected violation of the Honor Code in the manner prescribed
Giving and/or receiving unauthorized aid: may include the use of crib sheets, answer keys, discarded computer programs, the aid of another person on a take-home exam, etc.); copying from another student’s work; unauthorized use of books, notes, or other outside materials during “closed book” exams; soliciting, giving, and/or receiving unauthorized aid orally or in writing; or any other similar action that is contrary to the principles of academic honesty.
Plagiarism: defined as incorporating into one’s own work the work or ideas of another without properly indicating that source. This may occur within an assigned paper, theme, report, or other material submitted to meet course requirements. A full discussion of plagiarism and proper citation is provided in the Student Handbook.
Unauthorized submission of work prepared for another course: may include instances without specific prior authorization of the instructors in both courses.
Falsifying records: may include any falsification of class records or other materials submitted to demonstrate compliance with course requirements or to obtain class credit, including falsifying records of class attendance, attendance at required events or events for which credit is given, or attendance or hours spent at internships or other work service.
Falsifying of results of study and research: may include cheating, plagiarizing, or otherwise falsifying results of study.
Altering previously graded work for a re-grade: may include altering a previously graded examination or test for a re-grade.
Any action designed to deceive faculty, staff, or other students: may include securing an answer to a problem for one course from a faculty member in another course when such assistance has not been authorized.
Submission of work prepared by commercial or noncommercial agents as one’s own: may include the use of texts, papers, computer programs, or other class work prepared by commercial or noncommercial agents and submitted as a student’s own work.
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FACULTY ROLE IN THE HONOR SYSTEM
The Honor System requires the honor councils to educate students in the meaning of the Honor System, and frees the instructor from the responsibility of policing students. Yet, faculty have responsibility for fostering in students a respect for the Honor System and observance of its principles in all academic endeavors.
Strong faculty engagement with the Honor System includes the following best practices:
1. At the beginning of each semester, faculty members should provide a statement in every course taught demonstrating his/her/their support of the Honor System. This statement should explain what constitutes a violation of the Honor Code in the course, including limitations on collaboration with other students and the use of outside sources. If such matters are stated explicitly, misunderstanding may be reduced. Sample syllabus statements are included at the end of this document.
2. Faculty members can help to keep the Honor System relevant and applicable by requiring students to sign the pledge on every assignment. The pledge states, “I pledge on my honor that I have neither given nor received unauthorized aid on this assignment.”
3. Although the primary responsibility for academic honesty is in the hands of each student, the faculty member should make every effort to provide a classroom atmosphere that is conducive to an effective Honor System. For example, during a test, the faculty member can require seating arrangements that minimize the possibility of a student’s accidentally seeing another’s paper. Likewise, faculty members should avoid giving identical examinations to different sections of a course, thus decreasing the opportunities for passing information either intentionally or unintentionally.
4. Faculty members should clearly designate which assignments or projects involve group work and which are to be done independently. This should be done both in the course syllabus and in the assignment or project instructions.
5. The faculty member should remind students of the Honor System throughout the semester, especially before assignments and tests.
6. Faculty members are encouraged to invite the Undergraduate Honor Council (or respective honor council in graduate/professional schools) to briefly present information and resources to their students at the beginning of each semester or as students prepare for mid-term and/or final examinations.
Faculty Advisers to the Undergraduate Honor Council
The Undergraduate Honor Council is comprised of students and is advised and supported by the Office of Student Accountability, Community Standards, and Academic Integrity. A board of faculty members, appointed by the Chancellor or the Chancellor’s designee, serve as Faculty Advisers to the Honor Council during hearings.
The Board of Faculty Advisers are vital to the Honor Council’s procedures. A member of the Board of Faculty Advisers sits on all small and full panel hearings. In a small panel hearing, the Faculty Adviser acts as a voting member of the panel, playing an integral part in determining the penalty. At all full panel hearings, the Faculty Adviser participates in the Honor Council’s interviews of witnesses, consideration of the evidence, and deliberations, but does not vote.
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REPORTING A VIOLATION
If a faculty member has reason to believe that the Honor Code has been breached, he/she/they are obligated to take action. Faculty must either:
1. Issue a personal warning to the student(s) suspected of academic dishonesty that, unless the action which led to the suspicion ceases, the incident will be reported to the Honor Council.
2. Report the incident to the appropriate honor council.
The flagrancy of the violation determines which course of action the faculty member is expected to take. The option of issuing a personal warning is appropriate only in the event of a minor suspicion or if evidence is not available. If suspicion is strong or if evidence is available, the faculty member is obligated to report the incident to the appropriate honor council. It should be understood, however, that the faculty member need not have evidence in hand before notifying the appropriate council–just well-founded suspicion. The councils will investigate all cases.
Steps for where to submit reports to honor councils are listed below. The faculty member need not consult or discuss the matter with the accused either before or after reporting the suspected violation to the appropriate honor council. The honor councils handle all matters pertaining to a case, including, if the instructor wishes, the notification of the accused student.
It is most helpful for the faculty member to submit a detailed description and provide as much supporting documentation as possible at the time of reporting. When submitting a report, it is helpful to include how the incident came to the faculty member’s attention and contextual information regarding the assignment or exam in question. Faculty members should include only observations and details most relevant to the incident itself. Supporting documentation that is most helpful at the time of reporting includes: the course syllabus, student work submission(s), and assignment guidelines. If relevant, seating charts, email correspondence with the student, MOSS or TurnItIn analyses, and other documentation may be very helpful as well.
Reporting an Undergraduate Student
To report a violation involving undergraduate students, go to the online reporting form found on the Undergraduate Honor Council website or click here.
Reporting a Graduate Student
To report a violation in the graduate and professional schools, the faculty member should notify the applicable honor council through its president, chair, or other appropriate person designated in the school. An investigator or other representative from the council will then call on the faculty member, discuss the case, and receive whatever evidence is available.
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UNDERGRADUATE HONOR COUNCIL PROCESS
This section will focus on the processes of the Undergraduate Honor Council. Faculty teaching graduate and professional students may obtain more information about their respective Honor Council’s procedures from the office of the dean of their school or college. For information regarding additional Honor Code statements and pledges that may apply to graduate and professional students, please consult the individual school or college and its honor council.
Once a report is filed, a professional staff member in the Office of Student Accountability, Community Standards, and Academic Integrity will serve as an Investigator. The Investigator will review the report and contact the faculty member to schedule an investigative meeting in which the incident will be discussed further and the faculty will be informed of all necessary documentation required to move forward. No matter how detailed the report submitted, the investigative meeting is necessary and integral to the Honor Council’s investigation. An investigative meeting report will be written by the Investigator and the faculty member will have an opportunity to review it for accuracy.
The Investigator will then meet with the accused student(s) and inform them of all the supporting documentation pertaining to the suspected violation. The accused student will provide an account of the incident, review the evidence with the support of an assigned Student Adviser, and then be asked to submit a plea. The Undergraduate Honor Council will then follow appropriate procedures for holding a small or full panel. A faculty member who submitted a report has the option to attend the hearing to provide testimony. Please refer to the Student Handbook for further details regarding the Honor Council investigation and hearing procedures.
The Director of the Office of Student Accountability, Community Standards, and Academic Integrity will notify the accusing faculty member of the outcome of the hearing by email. The presumptive penalty for a first offense is failure in the course. Penalties for a first offense may be heightened to suspension and expulsion, or lessened to a reprimand with recommended failure on the assignment after the Council reviews the flagrancy of the violation, the degree of premeditation, and the truthfulness of the accused throughout the hearing and investigation. Additionally, all students found guilty of an Honor Code violation are required to complete an online Academic Integrity Seminar. Please note these penalties pertain to Undergraduate Honor Council processes. Please refer to the Student Handbook for further details on penalties for honor code violations.
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FACULTY RESOURCES & SAMPLE SYLLABUS STATEMENTS
Processes and Procedures:
• Mary Helen Solomon, Director, Office of Student Accountability, Community Standards, & Academic Integrity
• Jeremy Bourgoin, Assistant Director, Office of Student Accountability, Community Standards, & Academic Integrity
• G.L. Black, Associate Dean of Students, Community Standards and Student Support
• Cynthia Cyrus, Vice Provost for Learning and Residential Affairs (charged with Honor System review)
• Katie Williamson, Undergraduate Honor Council President
• The Board of Faculty Advisers to the Honor Council
• Honor Council student members
• Department chair or director of undergraduate (or graduate) studies
• Associate Dean of your school
• The Writing Studio
• The Heard Library System
o Contact your library liaison
• The Center for Teaching
• The International Center for Academic Integrity
• The Association for Practical and Professional Ethics
• Academic Integrity in the 21st Century: A Teaching and Learning Imperative (ASHE Higher Education Report) by Tricia Bertram Gallant
• Handbook of Academic Integrity by Tracey Bretag
• Researching with Integrity: The Ethics of Academic Enquiry by Bruce Macfarlane
Each course syllabus should contain a written statement pertaining the Honor System and course-specific expectations for what constitutes a violation of the principles of academic integrity. It is also helpful to explain why it is the expectation that the Honor Code be adhered to within the course. Such statements help eliminate misunderstandings and unintentional violations. Sample syllabus statements include:
• “The Vanderbilt Honor Code governs all work in this course (e.g., tests, papers, homework assignments).”
• “All academic work at Vanderbilt is done under the Honor System.”
• “For each assignment in this course, I will explain how the Honor Code applies. If you have any doubts, please ask me – not another student or the T. A. – for clarification. Uncertainty about the application of the Honor Code does not excuse a violation.”
• Detail permissible and impermissible behavior. “Students may collaborate on homework, but not on in-class lab reports. “Rough drafts must include proper citations.” Et cetera.
The Center for Teaching includes example syllabi from Vanderbilt faculty members in the Cheating and Plagiarism section of their webpage.
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Office of Student Accountability, Community Standards, & Academic Integrity
Office Location: Rand 301
Office Number: 615-322-7868
Faculty teaching graduate and professional students may obtain more information about the Honor Council from the office of the dean of their school or college in which the class is taught.
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