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Honor System Undergoes Review

A committee that spent the summer reviewing the University’s honor system has come to three unanimous conclusions. UNC needs:

  • Greater efficiency and better communication between the honor system and faculty and the honor system and University;
  • To encourage measures that empower faculty in useful ways; and
  • More regular and rigorous contributions to discussions of intellectual honesty.

The review was prompted by a shared set of concerns that began in 2009, Chair Jay Smith said. It coincided with the case of football player Michael McAdoo, who was placed on academic probation after the Honor Court determined he had received help from a tutor to footnote and source one of his papers. When he tried to regain his spot on the team, his paper became public record and he was found to have plagiarized the work.

The committee presented 12 proposals to strengthen the honor system and a collection of positive and negative reviews from faculty. One professor shared his concerns that frequent “group work” allows students to justify sharing ideas and papers. A majority agreed with the need to revise the system, including greater student participation and a uniform policy regarding academic dishonesty among faculty.

“If we don’t have a consensus, you can imagine the confusion among students,” Smith said. “Our goal is educational citizenship and intellectual honesty. We can ensure everyone is on the same page and can give this explicit attention in our courses.”

The committee presented 12 proposals to strengthen the honor system and a collection of positive and negative reviews from faculty. At a Faculty Council meeting in October, some members shared anecdotes of missed opportunities by the court to discipline students they felt were clearly operating with academic dishonesty. One professor shared his concerns that frequent “group work” allows students to justify sharing ideas and papers. A majority agreed with the need to revise the system, including greater student participation and a uniform policy regarding academic dishonesty among faculty.

“If we don’t have a consensus, you can imagine the confusion among students,” Smith said. “Our goal is educational citizenship and intellectual honesty. We can ensure everyone is on the same page and can give this explicit attention in our courses.”

The committee plans to further involve students and faculty chairs in the process of putting their recommendations into action.

“We need to do more to rope in [department] chairs,” Smith said. “We need to encourage ownership over the system by all faculty and encourage uniformity of procedure from school to school.”


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