Updated, 4/23 1:46 p.m.
First-years from all four undergraduate schools could be reciting an honor pledge during convocation as soon as next semester, and an honor code could be printed on Columbia blue books.
The Columbia College Student Council unanimously passed a resolution Sunday evening calling for an honor pledge and an honor code to promote academic integrity. Barnard’s Student Government Association passed a similar resolution Monday evening, and the Engineering Student Council passed a similar resolution last week. The General Studies Student Council is expected to pass a version of it Tuesday.
The resolution states that new students from all four undergraduate schools, including transfer students, will recite an honor pledge during convocation and at an inter-school event during the New Student Orientation Program. Current students will not need to recite the pledge, which would not need administrative approval before taking effect in the fall.
Students will pledge “to value the integrity of our ideas and the ideas of others through honestly presenting our work, respecting authorship, and striving not simply for answers but for understanding in the pursuit of our common scholastic goals,” the resolution states.
“We’re encouraging NSOP to plan a four-school event,” said CCSC Academic Affairs Representative Steven Castellano, CC ’13, who spearheaded the resolution.
Students will also sign the pledge during orientation and attend mandatory discussion sessions about academic integrity issues. The resolution allows students with religious or philosophical objections to choose not to pledge without punitive action.
CCSC and ESC also approved a separate honor code for Columbia College and the School of Engineering and Applied Science, in which students state that they will not “plagiarize, use unauthorized materials, or give or receive illegitimate help on assignments, papers, and examinations.” The code will be printed on all Columbia blue books, and professors could choose to make students sign it during exams and when turning in their work.
Barnard and the School of General Studies already have their own honor codes. The new code would not apply to Barnard, but it would apply to GS.
SGA approved the honor pledge part of the resolution Monday, while keeping Barnard’s honor code intact. The Barnard honor code “remains as tradition,” SGA President JungHee Hyun, BC ’13, said.
GSSC President Jennifer Wisdom, GS ’13, also predicted that GSSC would pass the honor pledge and code at Tuesday’s GSSC meeting.
GSSC “is dedicated to undergraduate four council integration as much as possible,” Wisdom said in an email. “Our policy team has been reviewing the resolution thoroughly, and even set up a separate meeting this week just for review.”
However, Wisdom said that because GS students already sign the school's honor code during orientation, there needs to be discussion with the GS administration “to make sure the policies and standards of our current honor code are in line with what we are proposing as the four undergrad councils.”
Across all schools, there will be a two-year pilot period for future council members to discuss and examine the policy.
“We do not decide for future years,” Castellano said. “Next year, they’ll vote again, and one year after that, they’ll vote again.”
The councils will also conduct straw polls of students in each school to gauge public support for the policy.
“I know that in my class, people have seen people cheating before,” CCSC President Karishma Habbu, CC ’13, said in an interview after her council's vote. “They’ve been really frustrated by it. I think that frustration causes a lot of stress, a lot of anxiety.”
“This is what the students want,” she said.
The likelihood of all four councils approving the honor code is a milestone for the Academic Integrity Task Force, which has formulated and studied the proposal for more than a year.
“I am very happy that the council supported it, but I want to make sure it’s implemented in a way that is meaningful and transparent, and students are leading the initiatives still,” Castellano, a member of the task force, said.
The task force will be in charge of putting the honor code into practice by the start of next semester and in future semesters. Castellano said that the task force will continue outreach to professors, “especially because they’re putting it on the blue book.”
The honor code could have a big impact on the undergraduate schools, he said.
“Five years down the road, it will be definitely a distinctively different culture than we have now, if we continue leading this through the students,” he said.
Correction: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this article said that the resolution CCSC passed was the same as the resolution ESC passed. While they are similar, they are not the same. Spectator regrets the error.