Faculty Senate hears report from Honor Code panel

The most important step faculty can take to support academic integrity on campus is to file complaints when they catch students violating the Honor Code, Christine Griffith, associate vice provost for student affairs, told the Faculty Senate yesterday.

Enforcement and education are the key components for establishing and maintaining the highest standards in academic work, Griffith said during a presentation about the work of the Office of Judicial Affairs, which investigates violations of the university's Honor Code as well as the Fundamental Standard.

During the 2008-09 academic year, faculty members accounted for the vast majority – more than 80 percent – of Honor Code "complainants," Griffith said. Teaching assistants accounted for about 10 percent.

Students, on the other hand, accounted for only 2.5 percent of the complainants.

Griffith said there are many reasons why students do not file complaints.

Some don't want to "rat out" other students. Others worry that that the consequences and penalties for violating the Honor Code are too high. Some fear being ostracized.

"The challenge for us is figuring out how to alleviate the barriers to students coming forward," she said.

Griffith said the office is working with students to prepare a short video about the Honor Code, which should be ready in the fall. She was one of several speakers, including faculty, staff and students, who took part in a lively one-hour discussion. Other panelists included Eric Roberts, professor of computer science; Sunil Kumar, senior associate dean for academic affairs in the Graduate School of Business; Eric Osborne, the law representative of the Graduate Student Council; and Varun Sivaram, chair of the Undergraduate Senate.

Sivaram said the Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) recently conducted a survey on the Honor Code that elicited responses from 545 undergraduates and 262 graduate students.

He said 45 percent of those undergraduates said "no" to the question: If you were in a test situation and observed cheating, would you report this to the professor?"

"This is problematic," Sivaram said.

Among graduate students who took the survey, 62 percent said they would turn in a student they caught cheating on a test, he said.

During the two-hour meeting, the senate also heard a presentation from Richard Saller, dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences, who discussed the school's students and faculty, and its goals and initiatives for the coming year.

The full minutes of the Feb. 4 meeting will be available on the Faculty Senate website next week.