Honor Code ensures the quality, integrity of degrees earned at Tech

Monday afternoon, I participated in an interview with a journalist from Azerbaijan. He had come to Tech to find out a little more about American universities and, in particular, how we handle academic integrity. He asked the other participants and me why we have an honor code, some of the details of how we run our academic integrity system, and our views on academic integrity in general.

It was fascinating to speak with the journalist because it was clear that we came from two very different cultures. He was very interested in the violations that happen most often on campus. When we told him how the cases that come up most were those of unauthorized collaboration, he was rather intrigued. He told us that the problem his country’s schools often face is students bribing professors for a better grade in class.

We did not have much time to talk about why there was such a difference, but it did get me thinking about our issues at Tech. Why is unauthorized collaboration such a big problem on campus?

I think it may rest somewhat in how we view the Honor Code at Tech. Much of our focus rests on the section describing student responsibilities. In brief, it says students must not cheat or plagiarize. We all know this, and we agreed to abide by it when we signed the Honor Agreement upon our entrance to Tech.

The system we have set up to enforce academic integrity is also student focused. The professor reports a case to the Office of Student Integrity(OSI), and then OSI takes it from there. If a violation is determined to have happened, the student receives a sanction.

Yet, the student body of Tech did not create the Honor Code to put itself under more rules. It created the Code to make explicit an agreement between students, staff and faculty. It aims to “cultivate a community based on trust, academic integrity, and honor.”

Honor at Tech is not a one-way street. It is not the responsibility of only students to uphold our Honor Code. All of us, students, staff, and faculty, have our own responsibilities, and we all must ensure everyone else upholds their responsibility. The Dean of Students and faculty make sure we students do our part. Students, through the Honor Advisory Council and SGA, provide input on how the Dean’s Office and OSI enforce academic integrity. But who makes sure faculty are fulfilling their responsibilities?

That answer is simple. You do! Faculty must make clear their policies on academic integrity, in particular unauthorized collaboration. Many do this in their syllabi at the beginning of each semester. However, students must ask their professors if anything is unclear. Students go to each other for help first. When students go to their peers, they should know what the can do with who. Collaboration policies should not be secret, nor complex. The only way to ensure clear policies is for students to open dialogs with their professors early and often about academic integrity.

The Honor Advisory Council is there to help open these dialogs. You may have seen us with our Honor Wall on Skiles Walkway this past week. We asked many of you your opinions about issues involving academic integrity on campus, and we will use your feedback in our future plans.

HAC’s mission is to promote academic integrity on campus, advise individuals on the policies and procedures used to enforce the Honor Code and work to educate the Tech community about the specifics of the Code. The only way we can do that effectively is by getting feedback from the campus community.

You can stop by our office hours throughout the week. We’re there to answer questions about the process and the Honor Code in general. You can look at our website for more information about the Council’s activities, at honor.gatech.edu, or send us an email, [email protected]

The Honor Code ensures the integrity of the Tech degree. It tells other universities, businesses and official agencies that Tech grads earn their Tech diplomas. It tells them that Tech grads are people they can trust. It tells everyone that Tech is a place where honor and integrity can thrive.