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Office of Community Standards aims to better articulate Stanford values

This year, the newly created Office of Community Standards plans to expand its educational efforts around the Honor Code, Fundamental Standard and Student Judicial Charter. Those efforts start with New Student Orientation.

Kate Chesley Koren Bakkegard portrait

Koren Bakkegard, director of the Office of Community Standards

Faculty, staff and students can expect to hear more about the Fundamental Standard, the Honor Code and the Student Judicial Charter this coming year, thanks to increasing outreach efforts by the newly established Office of Community Standards.

The Fundamental Standard, established in 1896, and the Honor Code, established in 1921, outline expectations for Stanford student conduct.

The Student Judicial Charter, created in 1997, explains how alleged violations of either are reviewed and resolved. Violations of the Honor Code might include plagiarism or unpermitted aid on take-home exams. Violations of the Fundamental Standard might include driving under the influence or property damage.

The establishment of the new office was one result of an 18-month review of the judicial process at Stanford by a faculty, staff and student panel completed in 2012. Many of the panel's recommendations were implemented last year.

Koren Bakkegard, associate dean of student life and director of the Office of Community Standards, talks about the implemented recommendations and about the work that remains for her and her staff, especially in making the Honor Code and Fundamental Standard better understood.

 

How do you hope to better communicate the expectations encompassed in the Honor Code and Fundamental Standard?

One of the summer Approaching Stanford newsletters for incoming freshmen and transfer students was dedicated to the Honor Code, and we plan to place greater emphasis on the Honor Code during New Student Orientation (NSO) and in outreach to faculty. New students will also hear descriptions of what is being calling the "Cardinal Code," which embodies the idea that members of the Stanford community have obligations to one another individually and collectively. Over the summer, we have also been talking with student body leadership, which has a strong interest in the judicial process.

Through these and other initiatives, we want to encourage students to talk with their faculty and peers about academic integrity and why it is critical. Professor of Education Eamonn Callan probably expressed it best when he said that we want students to regard the Honor Code as a principle of interpersonal honor and not simply personal honor.

 

What is special about the Honor Code and Fundamental Standard?

Rather than a list of things that are prohibited, these statements speak to our aspirations about who we are and what we believe in as a community. They are also both unique to Stanford: the Fundamental Standard was articulated by David Starr Jordan, Stanford's first president, and the Honor Code was written by students in 1921.

 

How has the mission of your office changed in the past year as a result of the 18-month review of the judicial process?

Overseeing the university's formal conduct process remains our core function. But we are increasingly investing in these educational efforts and in building new informal resolution programs. Eventually, I hope our work will evolve to primarily promoting the community's commitment to its core values and less to performing reactive work in the form of investigations and hearings.

 

What are some of the other recommendations you have instituted over the past year?

Besides renaming the office, a director position was created, and we have formally adopted key elements of the Early Resolution Option (ERO), which is a process available for uncontested Honor Code and Fundamental Standard cases. The ERO improves the timeliness and outcomes of the conduct process. We have also incorporated a restorative justice program, which brings together harmed and responsible parties for a facilitated discussion. We instituted a new process to handle student organization issues, and we developed training for volunteer judicial counselors.

 

Besides expanding communication efforts, what are some of the other objectives your office hopes to pursue in the coming year?

We see great promise in the restorative justice program because it gives the participants the opportunity to decide together how to repair harms. A restorative justice pilot conducted two years ago showed high levels of satisfaction. Building this program, increasing awareness about the restorative justice model and incorporating these principles throughout our work are among our highest priorities.

 

How is our judicial process at Stanford similar to or different from those at peer colleges and universities?

Most universities have a formal process like Stanford's that involves investigations and formal hearings to determine if a student is responsible for a violation. Stanford's process is unique in the extent to which students are involved. It's important to remember that the Honor Code was written by students. Each hearing panel has four students and only one faculty member and one staff member. The policy-setting Board on Judicial Affairs has six student members. And, changes to the Student Judicial Charter of 1997 require approval by both the Undergraduate Senate and Graduate Student Council. This is very much a student-centered process, which is why it is so important that we work hard to ensure that students understand and embrace their responsibilities.