Q&A: Aine Donovan on the honor code

by Emilia Baldwin | 11/13/14 7:52pm

The Dartmouth chatted with Aine Donovan, who directs the College’s Ethics Institute, about Dartmouth’s honor code.

How familiar do you think students are with the honor code?

AD: I think there is a passing reference to it, and I think that faculty think that students can just pick it up through osmosis, but that’s not the case. If I’m not mistaken, students just have to check a box as freshman saying they’ve read and understand the code. I think we should be doing more. It is a wonderful tradition. If we don’t promulgate it we risk losing something really precious.

Do you think infringements against the honor code are born out of ignorance? In the clicker incident, do you think students didn’t know that they might have been violating the code?

AD: I mean, who would not know that it’s the wrong thing to do? When students break the honor code, they’re damaging the whole community. Some schools don’t have an honor code. They have rules and if you break them, disciplinary action ensues. The honor code is so beautiful because it lifts you up to an obligation that peer to peer, you have to uphold standards of academic integrity. It’s not just the rule, it’s the right thing to do.

How do you think faculty could help maintain this tradition?

AD: I put blame on faculty and the administration because I think we should be doing a lot more to maintain the principles. That includes reiterating the honor code at the beginning of each term, not for the first time, reiterate. I’ve heard of professors proctoring exams, we’re not supposed to do that! But they say they know there are cheaters in their class, and they have to keep an eye on them to know what’s going on. That’s a violation of the code. You can’t have it both ways.

In terms of the technological advances in recent years, do you think the honor code has to be updated to keep up with the times?

AD: I definitely think it needs to be updated. It shouldn’t matter if it’s online or not, but the reality is, the temptation for all of us has been heightened. If the temptation is there, you’re stressed, expediency is trumping integrity, it’s all easier with the type of technology we have now than it was in the past when you just had a blue book and a pen.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.