Students Should Commit to Integrity

“I have adhered to the Honor Code in this assignment.”

As students of Oberlin College, we are required to sign this pledge on every assignment we turn in. Yet this year, the Student Honor Committee has already doubled its total cases of potential Honor Code violations from last year.

Despite what many Oberlin students might think, the purpose of the committee is to educate — not punish — students who violate the Honor Code. The value of the Honor Code lies in its role of cultivating the kind of atmosphere of intellectual freedom and discourse that we hold so dear at Oberlin. If, as a student body, we fail to follow the Honor Code, we cannot possibly expect to uphold our institution’s core values of respect and meaningful intellectual engagement.

The Student Honor Committee plays an invaluable part in maintaining the virtues of the Honor Code. As peers, we serve as an educational body for students who face potential Honor Code violations. While we do not choose who is entered into our system, we play a direct role in helping these students throughout the duration of their case. Before holding a hearing, each case manager meets with the respondent individually in order to reassure them of the process, provide them with case documents to ensure they are fully informed of their case, and answer any questions they may have. While mitigating circumstances, such as mental health issues, do not totally excuse a student who breaks the Honor Code, we do take the time to fully understand each and every student’s situation.

As your fellow students, we on the committee understand the pressures required of being an Oberlin student, and the ensuing stress faced when dealing with charges of academic dishonesty. However, as supervisors of the Honor Code, we seek to educate the student body in order to establish and protect a high standard of academic integrity within Oberlin. We hope to greatly reduce the number of potential violations. In order to do so, we need to get to work.

Currently, the Student Honor Committee is grossly understaffed. With the recent trend of an uptick in cases, it is more essential than ever before that we represent the student body as effectively and efficiently as possible. With our current status as a 13-member body, it is difficult to maintain this ideal. In an effort to complete open cases before the inevitable large influx of cases from finals, we are currently holding a high number of potential Honor Code violation hearings. As each hearing requires at least four committee members to serve as hearing panelists, many of us are doing double-duty, and trying our absolute best to fulfill our prescribed purposes to the best of our ability.

Clearly, the fact that the amount of cases reported in only one semester has doubled from last year’s total is concerning. Perhaps this points to a lack of understanding of the Honor Code by the student body. In that case, the Student Honor Committee needs to evaluate the methods in which we educate students about the Honor Code, which currently takes the form of online resources and mandatory presentations during first-year orientation. However, the very nature of the Honor Code and the responsibility of students inherent in the privilege of an Oberlin education requires that students hold each other accountable for maintaining a high standard of academic integrity. It should not take a student getting caught breaking the Honor Code for them to realize the seriousness of their actions. Cheating is not something that only affects the person who cheated; it has a trickle-down effect that threatens Oberlin’s educational integrity. For example, just think of curved exams — if you cheat and get caught, you receive a zero. As a result, every other student in that class who took that exam, regardless of whether they followed the Honor Code, will receive a lower grade. Do you want to be this person? No? Then don’t break the Honor Code. It’s that simple.

If you are interested in protecting your fellow students’ intellectual freedom and facilitating educational discussions about core institutional values, please consider applying to serve on the committee. We need your valuable input as an active member of the Oberlin student body. Contact the Student Honor Committee ([email protected]) for an application.