This common lack of respect for UNC's student-run honor system prompted Chancellor James Moeser to appoint a task force of students and faculty last year to review the system.
Now, the Committee on Student Conduct is reviewing the task force's proposed changes, which address faculty involvement, student awareness and integrity issues.
According to the Instrument of Student Judicial Governance, the document written in 1974 that lays out the tenets of the Honor Code and Honor Court procedures, faculty are required to "take all reasonable steps" to enforce the Honor Code.
The instrument states that students are required to "obey and support the enforcement of the Honor Code." This includes obeying the Campus Code, which is the part of the Honor Code that prohibits actions that would "impair significantly the welfare or the educational opportunities of others."
Violations of the Campus Code include alcohol and drug violations on campus, vandalism and harassment of other students.
All possible violations of either code must be reported to the student attorney general or to the dean of students, both of whom ultimately charge students and decide their guilt or innocence.
Some faculty members said they report all possible violations, but others said they do not trust the Honor Court to adequately deal with the situations. Boone Turchi, professor of economics, said he is aware of several cheating cases that have been dismissed from the Honor Court because of technicalities.
"Sometimes I have thought it would be difficult to prove a case to the court's satisfaction, so I just confront the student directly," Turchi said.
He said that he respects the ideas the code stands for but that he does not think the Honor Court does an effective job of enforcing and promoting these ideas."I can't tell you I have ever sent a case to the Honor Court," Turchi said. "I think the prevailing attitude of the economics department is that we don't send cases unless there is a slam-dunk case."
The Department of English reports all of its students' possible violations to the Honor Court, said department Chairman James Thompson, but the system does not achieve satisfactory results. Plagiarism is a common problem in the department, but many of the cases are not judged accurately by the court, he said.
"We send case after case of plagiarism, and we are told repeatedly that (the code) doesn't really apply," Thompson said. "It causes great demoralization among our faculty and teaching fellows."
With that in mind, many of the proposed changes to the judicial system were suggested to appease faculty concerns, which ideally would build a sense of respect for the honor system, said Student Attorney General Amanda Spillman.
And faculty members have reacted positively to some of the changes. Turchi said the proposed "XF" grade, which would mark the transcripts of students convicted of cheating, would deter students from violating the code. He added that another positive proposed change would be not only allowing, but encouraging, professors to work out solutions with the charged students.
Thompson said he thinks the most important proposed change is the addition of a five-member faculty advisory panel to assist the student attorney general. This would give the faculty an opportunity to have their ideas heard and their influence felt in the Honor Court without infringing on the students' right to run the court.
Spillman said that there is already faculty involvement in the appeals process of the honor system and that she welcomes an advisory panel to discuss faculty concerns. But she said she does not agree with critics who believe faculty should adjudicate all cases involving students.
"I'm basically against that," Spillman said. "I think faculty sitting on the actual Honor Court would fly in the face of our self-governance."
Recent improvements and the proposed changes should influence faculty members to trust the system, Spillman said. But some teaching assistants still say they do not respect its importance.
Jason File, a TA in the Department of Religious Studies, said that he has not seen any cheating cases in his two semesters at UNC but that he thinks the Honor Code shows a lack of maturity and trust in the students. During his undergraduate education at the University of California-San Diego, academic violations were handled solely by the student and professor.
"It was kind of weird to see people in college having a sort of Honor Code," File said. "For my undergraduate, we were adults and didn't have to sign any socially binding thing about it."
A code of ethics against accepting unauthorized help is more important than the actual Honor Code, said Jonathan Lillie, a TA for three years in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
Lillie said that because many students seek outside help on a class assignment to build a Web page, he would rather deal with possible violations himself on an individual basis.
"I'm a professional, and as a professional I always get help in my professional life," Lillie said. "That's one area where I don't really know the boundary, so I give a lot of leeway."
Spillman said students should want to have their cases settled within the honor system because of the guarantee of uniform trials and penalties for each student.
To ensure fairness, students accused of violating the Honor Code should convince faculty members to report cases instead of dealing with them internally, she said. "If you don't go through the honor system, then you are not guaranteed to have your basic rights."
Educating students about the Honor Code is an important way to gain student trust, Spillman said. She added that although students might think they know the codes, there are several violations they are not aware of.
Senior Melissa Nicholson said all she knows about the code is the pledge she signs. Fear of the Honor Court and a moral obligation to obey are the main reasons she adheres to the pledge, she said.
"I think it is important to uphold academic integrity," Nicholson said. "If you violate the academic Honor Code, it is going to hurt you the rest of your life."
Senior Suzanne Little said she follows the code because of a desire to follow her conscience. But she does not feel a social contract with other students through the Honor Code, and she does not think other students do either.
"They know it's the right thing to do not to cheat and break the law and stuff," Little said. "I don't think everyone is following it to build a sense of community."
Sophomore Faudlin Pierre said he thinks people adhere to the academic dishonesty policies of the Honor Code more strictly than those in the Campus Code. "I think people often follow the Honor Code," Pierre said.
"The penalty for cheating is worse than drinking in the dorms, which is just a slap on the wrist."
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