Honor Code 2.0

February 26, 2009
By Randy Fiedler

Since Baylor's revised Honor Code was implemented in spring 2007, faculty and administrators have been able to better track violations and keep tabs on repeat offenders.

Tiffany Hogue, assistant provost for institutional effectiveness, was one of the group of faculty and administrators who began meeting in summer 2005 to discuss ways to correct many of the previous code's weaknesses, such as its inability to effectively deal with students who violated the code more than once.

"Prior to the revised Honor Code being implemented in spring 2007, we had no way to track repeat offenders," Hogue said. "For example, if there was a student who plagiarized something in English 1302 in the first semester of their freshman year, and then violated the code again in their sophomore and junior years, the faculty had no way of knowing of those prior violations. The student might violate the Honor Code four of five times before they graduated and still not receive any penalty worse than getting an F in each class, which is the most severe penalty a professor can issue on his own. We knew that a student like that needed a more serious sanction."

To identify repeat offenders, the revised Honor Code requires faculty members to report violations each time they occur.

"We now have a secure, easy to use online reporting form that connects to a database," Hogue said. "The faculty member lists the facts behind the violation and tells how they handled it. Then, the Office of Academic Integrity, which we created at the time the Honor Code was revised, will take things from there and notify the student about the violation and what sanction will be given."

If the student then goes on to commit a second violation of the Honor Code, the database makes it easy for administrators to take appropriate action.

"Once a report for a violation is filed, it comes to the attention of Linda Cates, the director of the Office of Academic Integrity. She will then enters it into the database and discover whether the student in question has any previous violations," Hogue said. "If the student has previous violations his file will then be sent to the Honor Council, a group of 10 faculty members and 10 students who decide cases of Honor Code violation. The Council will then have a hearing, make a determination on guilt or innocence, and if the student is found guilty the Council will decide whether additional sanctions for the repeat violation are warranted. Any recommendations for sanctions against the student are then given to the Provost's Office."

Hearings before the Council are non-judicial. One way hearings can come about is by request of the accused student if he feels the professor's original charge of Honor Code violation is wrong or the professor's original sanction is too severe. Another way a hearing might take place is if a professor prefers that the Honor Council decide the matter.

During an Honor Council hearing, both the faculty member and the accused student may speak, and each may bring witnesses and provide evidence.

The statistics collected since the revised Honor Code became effective have given faculty and administrators valuable insight into the problem of violations. During spring 2007 and the 2007-2008 academic year, 128 violations were reported. During the fall 2008 semester, an additional 72 violations were reported.

During fall 2008, 40 percent of Honor Code violators were freshmen, with most other violations spread among sophomores (21 percent) juniors (15 percent) and seniors (18 percent). Graduate students were responsible for 6 percent of violations. The most frequent violation of the Honor Code is plagiarism.

Hogue urges faculty members to familiarize themselves with the Honor Code by visiting, and contacting either Dr. Larry J. Browning, chair of the Honor Council, or Linda Cates at the Office of Academic Integrity for answers to questions.

"Most of all, we want to make sure faculty know that the new Honor Code does have a reporting requirement," Hogue said. "So, although faculty will always be able to handle an Honor Code violation on their own if they so choose, they do need to report both the violation and the sanction after they've handled the matter."
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