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November 12, 2001

Chace forms special committee to examine academic integrity

By Michael Terrazas


A special committee established by President Bill Chace will spend the remainder of 2001–02 reviewing academic integrity on campus and defining ways to bring the issue to the forefront of University culture.

With the advent of the Internet, many American universities have taken a fresh look at academic honesty and the challenges it faces. The web has given rise to a cottage industry of dishonesty, with websites offering prewritten term papers to any student willing to punch in a credit-card number. Even before the web took off, the late ’80s and early ’90s witnessed a growth around college campuses of small businesses selling notes to various, usually survey-level, classes.

“This came up some time ago in a series of conversations with [former Emory College dean] Steve Sanderson, [former provost] Rebecca Chopp, [interim college Dean] Bobby Paul and other faculty members who would talk to me about it,” Chace said. “And there have been several readings over the years in The Chronicle of Higher Education about other campuses that had come to a state of concern that plagiarism, cheating and a general lack of academic honor are now a problem for American universities.”

Are they a problem for Emory? That’s what this committee hopes to find out, Chace said. The group is made up of 25 faculty, administrators and students, with three co-chairs: Chace, Senior Vice President for Campus Life John Ford and James Fowler, Candler Professor of Theology and Human Development and director of the Center for Ethics.

In a report to the University Senate on Oct. 30, Chace said the committee will assess the current processes involved in communicating and enforcing the existing Honor Code, determine the extent of student and faculty input into the judicial process, and survey the attitudes of teachers and students with respect to cheating.

According to Associate Dean Sally Wolff King, the Emory College Honor Council has heard 486 cases in the last 10 years, 287 of which ultimately resulted in a finding of guilty, accompanied by sanctions. Last spring the council heard 40 cases, 28 of which ended with guilty verdicts, eight still pending. Sanctions ranged mostly from zero grades on the works in question to written reprimands, failing course grades or suspensions of up to one year.

“I don’t think we’re in a state of crisis or alarm, but right now we are not doing a lot to orient our students to the honor program,” said Fowler, who added that he receives “mixed answers” to the question of whether Emory has a problem with academic dishonesty.

Ford, who arrived on campus in January from Cornell University, said current processes need to be examined. Right now, the Honor Code is enforced by the individual schools, while the Campus Code of Conduct falls under the jurisdiction of Campus Life.

“That’s another question some people have raised: What should the relationship [between those two processes] be?” Ford said. “Some people feel they are different facets of the same issue. Behavior is related in some ways to honesty, academically.”

To accomplish its goals, the committee will use several tools: administrative interviews and policy briefings to determine existing structures; focus-group conversations with students and faculty; statistics and case histories of hearings conducted under both the Honor Code and the Code of Conduct; and comparative studies with other universities around the country.

Emory will have plenty of help in its efforts. For example, the Center for Academic Integrity ( is a 9-year-old organization currently run out of Duke University’s Kenan Center for Ethics. The center is a consortium of more than 225 institutions (including Emory) to share research and experiences regarding academic honesty.

Chace said he would like to see some tangible results from the committee by the end of next semester. “I don’t know how long it will go,” he said, “but we’re going to work hard all year.”


Back to Emory Report November 12, 2001