Task force pursues honor code

Once again, the Student Government Association’s new task force is working to institute an honor code at TCU. This time, a pilot program is targeted for next semester.SGA President Trevor Heaney said the council has never given up on the idea of an honor code but has been re-evaluating past efforts.

Heaney said the task force was created to research individual TCU honor codes it could expand on to ensure the honor code will be schoolwide.

“SGA is looking at colleges and departments that have honor codes or that are willing to make it cohesive on both ends,” said Heaney, who appointed the task force.

Ambika Sharma, chairwoman of the task force, said the purpose of the honor code is to define cheating and outline the consequences of academic misconduct.

SGA had a task force three years ago called the Integrity Council, which presented an honor code proposal to the Faculty Senate. However, the proposal was not accepted because, in Sharma’s opinion, it was too vague.

Peggy Watson, director of the Honors Program, said the Faculty Senate tabled the proposed honor code because it needed more work.

“It is not just something you sign stating you won’t cheat,” she said. “It will have to be complex because the consequences for cheating are extremely serious.”

The task force is researching honor codes at other universities and comparing pros and cons, said Sharma, SGA deputy chief of staff. The council is also consulting with faculty members, deans and departments to generate support in implementing a new honor code, she said.

Watson said the task force needs to build a strong case.

“I tried to play devil’s advocate, not because I wouldn’t support the honor code, but (the task force) needs to know why people would oppose it so they can defend it,” she said.

Sharma said she thinks the previous honor code didn’t succeed because the student who tried to implement it graduated shortly after it was proposed, and the project did not generate enough support.

“In order for any honor code to work, there has to be a culture change,” she said.

Provost Nowell Donovan said students have discussed honor codes before.

“What happens is particular students get enthused by the idea, and then they leave without ever having really gotten through it,” he said.

Ralph Carter, political science department chairman, said some faculty members would like to see TCU implement an honor declaration for students to sign stating they will not cheat or tolerate those who do.

Carter said academic dishonesty cheapens the TCU diploma for students who actually earn it.

“It demeans every other student at TCU who has the exact same diploma that says Texas Christian University on it,” he said. “It’s like a counterfeit diploma.”

David Grant, chairman of the religion department, said cheating also demeans the academic system.

“A university is built on intellectual integrity, and there’s almost a covenant between the professors and the students to assume a level of trust that the work is the student’s own work,” Grant said. “(Cheating) is a strike at the heart of what the whole academic enterprise is about.”

Donovan called cheating an ultimate betrayal.

“It’s a betrayal of your relationship with your teacher, betrayal of your relationship with those who have loved you in the past, and a big betrayal of your relationship with your fellow students,” he said. “You want to beat them, and you don’t really care how you do it.”

“The best defense against cheating is to create ethical people who do that trick of looking in the mirror and are pleased with what they see both inside and outside,” he said.