New penalties, other changes emerge from reviews of the Honor System

Changes to the University’s 125-year-old Honor System — including a new range of penalties, expanded student membership on the Honor Committee, and the pairing of professional investigators with student investigators — are expected to be implemented in the coming academic year. 

After a series of committee reviews over the past two years, students, faculty, and administrators on the Academic Integrity Reconciliation Committee submitted their proposals in January. The recommendations were accepted by the dean of the College, the vice president of student life, and the dean of the faculty and approved by President Eisgruber ’83.

The committee supported some longstanding aspects of the Honor System — including leaving examinations unproctored and ensuring that only students be members of the Honor Committee — but suggested revising the penalty structure by increasing the range of probationary periods and adding a reprimand for minor first offenses. 

“Our hope is that after two years of this process, we’re now at a point where students can reinvest their trust in the Honor Code.”

— Dean of the College Jill Dolan

“Someone who fails to put their pencil down for 30 seconds after a professor calls time should perhaps suffer a different penalty than a student who copies from another student’s paper,” said Jill Dolan, the dean of the College. “The committee is trying to make sure that the punishment meets the infraction.” 

Other recommended changes include:

Allowing a one-semester suspension as an alternative to a suspension of one year.

Creating and publicizing a “guiding principles” document for students and faculty to “explain how the Honor System exists as a pact between students and faculty and clarify the implications of the pact in terms of modifying the system now and in the future.” 

Increasing the number of students elected to the Honor Committee from four to six.

Pairing professional investigators with student investigators to lighten the workload for Honor Committee members.

Eliminating character witnesses for hearings.

Developing standardized language by instructors for calling time at the end of an exam.

The reconciliation committee recommended against combining the Honor Committee and the Committee on Discipline (which hears cases of academic infractions other than violations during in-class exams), though it suggested bringing each group’s penalties more into line with each other. 

Dolan said the faculty will not have to act on the proposals, while the Undergraduate Student Government is determining whether any of the changes will require a student vote. She said she expects the recommendations to be implemented by the beginning of the fall 2019 semester.

“Our hope is that after two years of this process, we’re now at a point where students can reinvest their trust in the Honor Code,” Dolan said.

According to The Daily Princetonian, several initiatives are planned for the spring semester to give students the opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback to the USG, the Honor Committee, and the University. Honor Committee chair Camille Moeckel ’20 said implementation of the guiding-principles document and the membership changes to the Honor Committee may require a student vote. 

The Honor Committee reported last month that from 2014 to 2018, 99 violations were reported to the committee, 37 resulted in a hearing, and 23 students were found responsible for violating the Honor Code.