Campuses revise academic codes

By Michelle Landrum

Across the nation, many schools are revising academic honor codes to stop cheating on campus.

However, Arra Garab, a 24-year NIU English department veteran, said an honor code system might not work at NIU because of a lack of tradition.

Many universities have academic honor codes that make students responsible to maintain an honest academic climate and report fellow students who cheat.

The “drawback is that it’s not going to work on a campus like this,” Garab said. Schools with honor codes must maintain a strong sense of identity between students and the college, he said.

“This campus is like a department store or a supermarket. There’s all sorts of people here,” Garab said, explaining such diversity might hinder identity.

Honor codes have worked at other schools, where “student bodies were much more homogeneous,” Garab said. Students who attend schools with honor codes have a sense of family and tradition within the school, Garab said.

NIU fails to give the sense of tradition because it is “new, big and impersonal,” he said, adding the faculty and administration do not have a strong sense of identification.

The University of Maryland at College Park approved an honor code last spring requiring students to pledge not to cheat and report peers who do, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. However, the code has not been approved yet by the university president.

If honor codes do not curb cheating, instructors must be on guard. Garab said most of the exams he gives are essay tests, so few students are able to cheat.

However, Garab taught a mass grammar class last semester with fill-in-the-blank quizzes and tests. The amount of cheating increased, but was not widespread, he said.

“I didn’t do anything about it,” Garab said, explaining the number of students was too large to spread out in such a small room. “There was evidence, but I couldn’t prove it” and cheating did not significantly change students’ grades.

“If I caught some students outright, I would report it. But I’ve never caught any,” he said.