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Report of the Honor Committee 2013 — 2014

Reports from the Honor Committee are always worth reading. Here (pdf) is the latest, from 2013 — 2014 academic year. Comments:

1) The last two years have featured 34 and 30 cases. That is about double the average of the proceeding decade. Are Williams students cheating more or is the College more diligent in catching them?

2) The Committee deserves praise for being so transparent in telling us what happened and why. Example report:

A sophomore was found to have violated the Honor Code by using the answers of another student to complete her work on a take-home exam in Chemistry, and also by submitting an incorrect time log on the exam. The sanction was failure in the course with disciplinary probation until graduation.

Transparency is wonderful, because it both discourages future cheating and helps build community consensus about unacceptable behavior and the appropriate punishments therefrom.

3) But even more transparency would be better. In some reports (as above) they make clear the gender of the student. That is good! If cheating is more male than female (or vice versa) then we have a better idea about where to devote our educational efforts. Another location for increased transparency is reports like this one:


Seems obvious to me that these students had more in common than this class. Isn’t it highly likely that they were on the same sports team? As always, we don’t need to know the names of the students and we don’t want so much information that they are identifiable. But we need more data if we are to reducing cheating. If lots of cheating seems connected to team membership, then we ought to know that fact. Similarly, if international students are more likely to be charged — perhaps because foreign high schools have different standards — we need to know that as well.

What is your favorite case from 2013 — 2014?


Report of the Honor Committee 2007 — 2008

Lest it disappear forever, here is a copy of the Report of the Honor Committee, 2007 — 2008. I recommend that students read these cases and learn from them. Example:

A junior was accused of not attributing ideas and writing from a family member who helped the student write his/her paper for an English class. The student noted that he/she was very challenged by the demands of the course and that he/she sought the family member’s help in the assignment. He/She nonetheless maintained that the work in the paper was his/her own. However, the student’s professor had access to a draft of the paper in which the “track changes” function in Word was still activated and thus showed
precisely where the family member had contributed text. The Committee imposed failure in the course and disciplinary probation until the end of the fall 2008 semester.

Either don’t cheat or, if you are going to cheat, try to not be stupid about it!


Honor 2012 — 2013

The Honor and Discipline Committee is a wonderful institution at Williams. Here (pdf) is a copy of its latest report, from the academic year 2012 — 2013.

The Honor and Discipline Committee is made up of eight students, eight faculty, and the Dean of the College. The secretary to the Dean of the College assists committee members with their work, helping to schedule hearings, find rooms and equipment, collate evidence, and maintain records.

Student members are elected by their peers in September. There are two seats per class year. The Dean designates one student as chair. The Faculty Steering Committee appoints eight faculty members, striving for a balance among divisions and a mix of experience levels with the committee. The FSC designates a FacultyChair.

Honor hearings include eight student members, four faculty members (including the faculty chair and the Dean), who act as questioners, advisors, and the recording secretary. Only the students may vote. The faculty members rotate.

Discipline appeal hearings include four students and four faculty, including the two chairs. All members vote. Who is selected depends on scheduling and rotation, not on any other characteristics. As a party to any appeal, the Dean does not sit on the committee.


1) I love that only students vote on honor violations. Is this true at other schools? The more responsibility that Williams places on its students, the better their education will be. And don’t think that this means that the Committee is easy on other students. If anything the reverse is true. By all accounts, students are much harsher judges of their peers than faculty would ever dare to be.

2) Is there a reason that faculty get to vote on discipline appeals? Has that always been true? The cynic in me thinks that it is a way for the Administration to minimize the chance that the students will, in a fit of jury nullification, overrule a decision made by the Dean of the College.

3) Note the amazing increase in the number of honor violations in the last few years. There were 31 cases! In 2005 — 2006 (pdf) there were 8. What explains the increase?


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