SGA and Faculty Senate work to make an honor code

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TCU focuses on the consequences of violating academic misconduct, but the Faculty Senate wants students to live by a moral code that goes beyond the classroom.

For the past seven years, Faculty Senate and the Student Government Association have been discussing a draft Honor Code. Honor Codes, which are in place at institutions such as Trinity College in San Antonio, Rice University and Baylor, are meant to hold students to an ethical standard of behavior in and out of the classroom.

According to the draft the Honor Code its mission is to “decrease academic misconduct and create a culture that regards academic misconduct as unacceptable,” and to “fulfill the TCU mission statement on ethical leadership.”

The Faculty Senate has been working with SGA this semester to make improvements to the original document created in 2010. Since then, there have been massive changes in society and technology, such as social media, that are not addressed in the current draft.

“At this point, the 2010 document, which was approved by SGA and the Faculty Senate but never adopted, is a template,” said Faculty Senate Chair Jesus Castro-Balbi. “We will keep an open mind to see what the students and dean envision so that we can collaborate towards a model that works.”

Is an honor code needed?

Discussion around an honor code has been heated with opposition predating the latest draft. In a 2008 article published in the Daily Skiff, students were not interested in the idea of adopting an honor code.

At the time, students said cheating was not a problem on campus. One student said an honor code was nice in theory, but moral responsibilities fall on individual students, not the student government.

But the Faculty Senate has persisted.

“We have, across campus, a very strong desire to develop a code that will enable us to have conditions that promote honorable conduct in all aspects of our academic endeavors,” said Dr. Jesus Castro-Balbi, chair of the Faculty Senate.

SGA president, John Paul-Watson wrote in an email that an honor code should help perpetuate a culture of student accountability and, in turn, raise TCU’s academic profile.

An honor code along with a consistent and centralized process that deals with academic misconduct, ensures equal treatment for students who violate the Honor Code and protects those who do not, Watson wrote in an email.

Castro-Balbi said In addition to addressing honesty in the classroom the proposed code calls upon TCU students, “to fulfill the TCU mission statement on ethical leadership.”

He said the goal is to foster ethical conduct. “It really goes beyond not cheating in class,” he said.

Penalties for code violations would mirror those from the academic misconduct policy.

Personal responsibility

But like those in 2008, some students are still skeptical of the need and purpose of a code.

“I don’t think it’s [cheating] that big of a deal, at least in the engineering department,” said DJ Dimas, a junior engineering major. “For homework, they encourage us to work together. For test and other self-assessments I don’t see any cheating at all.”

First-year student Libby Glenn also questioned whether cheating was occurring enough to warrant a code.

“I haven’t personally witnessed any cheating,” said Glenn. “And I don’t really hear about people cheating much.”

Others are accepting of an academic honor code.

“I thought we already had one [an honor code],” said sophomore, Hannah Shipley. “So, I’m good with it.”

Junior Secondary Physical Science Education major, Colton Clanton, added: “We’re a school built on strong moral values and that’s exactly what we need.”

But they don’t agree with The Faculty Senate’s plan because students could face censure for outside activity like social media posts that don’t align with the values of the university.

“I think that’s giving TCU way too much power,” said Shipley.

Glenn argued that students should be free to post what they want on social media. “No one should control what someone posts on social media, it’s their right.”

Sophomore Bailey Ogalla agreed. “Inside the classroom, yes. Outside of the classroom, no. That’s my business, unless it is violating the safety of others.”

For now, Castro-Balbi said there is no end date in sight for the implementation of an honor code. The discussion between students, SGA and faculty senate is on-going.