Stanford University: Stanford Faculty Senate hears Honor Code recommendations from Board on Judicial Affairs

Stanford’s Board on Judicial Affairs (BJA) outlined recommendations meant to promote the university community’s ownership of the Honor Code during a report to the Faculty Senate on Thursday.


From left, Keith Schwarz, senior lecturer in computer science and co-chair of the Board on Judicial Affairs, and Glen Husman, computer science undergraduate and co-chair of the BJA, presented recommendations related to the Honor Code to the Faculty Senate on Thursday. (Image credit: Andrew Brodhead)

The recommendations come from the ongoing work of the Committee of 10 (C-10), which in 2019 began an intensive review of the Honor Code, Student Judicial Charter and interpretations of the Fundamental Standard.

The Honor Code is the university’s statement on academic integrity and articulates university expectations of students and faculty in establishing and maintaining the highest standards in academic work.

“These are things that we believe will give the community, as a whole, a lot more ownership over the Honor Code, will clarify different responsibilities and will ensure that the maintenance of the Honor Code proceeds smoothly,” said Keith Schwarz, senior lecturer in computer science and co-chair of the BJA. “We’d like you to share these pieces of guidance with your own departments, with your own schools in order to facilitate their adoption and make sure that the community understands that it really does own how these processes work and owns this Honor Code.”

The Faculty Senate also voted to amend the charge of the Committee on Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid (C-UAFA) on Thursday, codifying guidelines regarding committee membership.

Honor Code
The Board on Judicial Affairs is a 15-person standing committee composed of Stanford faculty, staff and students charged with overseeing judicial affairs, such as proposing amendments to the Student Judicial Charter of 1997.

Schwarz and Glen Husman, a computer science undergraduate and co-chair of the BJA, presented the report to the Faculty Senate. They were joined by Brian Conrad, professor of mathematics and C-10 member, and Marcia Stefanick, C-10 chair and professor (research) of medicine and of obstetrics and gynecology.

After an in-depth review, the C-10 proposed interim recommendations to the BJA that can be passed without directly modifying the Honor Code, Fundamental Standard or Judicial Charter.

The BJA, in consultation with the Undergraduate Senate, Graduate Student Council and Faculty Senate Steering Committee, distilled them down to seven recommendations:

Require yearly training on the Honor Code for every student upon entrance to Stanford and annually thereafter.
Have new students participate in student-led discussions about the Honor Code.
Departments and schools should work with the Office of Community Standards (OCS) to train instructors and teaching assistants about their responsibilities under the Honor Code.
Encourage clear guidelines by having every instructor include a statement of the Honor Code in their initial course material and tell the students, in concrete terms, what the Honor Code means in the course. Students bear responsibility to ask for clarification from instructors.
Students should sign or otherwise affirm a statement attesting to their awareness of, and commitment to abide by, the Honor Code for every exam and major assignment.
Improve communication to the BJA by having the BJA solicit community feedback and convening a meeting to discuss issues that have arisen under the Honor Code and possible remedies, including proposed bylaw changes.
Have the university periodically convene a committee to undertake an in-depth review of the Honor Code to assess its form and function in the Stanford community and produce a report provided to the OCS and/or BJA, including recommendations as appropriate. Each committee should be convened five years after the conclusion of the previous review.
The BJA unanimously approved these recommendations at its last meeting, which occurred on Wednesday. The C-10 will present its final proposal in the next academic year, at which point it will go to the BJA, Faculty Senate, Undergraduate Senate, Graduate Student Council and president’s office for review.

Husman said a regular review of the Honor Code will help reflect changes spurred by technology or social norms.

Multiple senate members raised concerns about the asymmetry between the different consequences of cheating, as well as a desire for consideration of revising the policy against proctoring.

Schwarz said those items are being investigated, with proctoring a particularly contentious issue that is being actively discussed.

Judith Goldstein, the Janet M. Peck Professor of International Communication at Stanford, said it’s also important to consider who is responsible for reporting an infraction.

“We’ve always relied on students acting against other students … It just puts a lot of responsibility on students and it requires them also to feel badly if they do report, and feel badly if they don’t,” Goldstein said.

Husman said the vast majority of students don’t want to cheat and there’s discussion about how Stanford can provide more proactive support to avoid cheating.

“It’s just easier all around if there’s no cheating, and everyone feels better about it, and then there’s a better culture of honor and academic integrity in the community,” Husman said.

Admissions
The Faculty Senate also voted to codify guidelines for membership to C-UAFA, which establishes the standards and policies by which applicants for admission and financial aid are to be selected.

The C-UAFA charge was amended to include that membership on the committee isn’t permitted for anyone with a child or close family member who is a high school junior or senior, or is expecting to apply within two years for undergraduate admission to college. Members with a child or other close family member who reaches this stage during their term are required to step down.

Kenneth Schultz, of the Committee on Committees and a professor of political science, said this policy has governed faculty participation for a while now but was never codified. “The purpose of this amendment is to make de jure a policy that has been de facto for some time to avoid conflicts of interest or situations in which an applicant might be perceived as having an unfair advantage,” Schultz said. “The university places this kind of restriction on people involved in the admissions process, or with special access to admissions policy.”

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