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Constitution of the Honor System

Adopted by the Undergraduates in 1893. Amended in 2012, 2014, and 2015. Revised in 2015.

Article I - Charter and Composition of the Honor Committee

A. Charter

1. The Honor Committee consists of twelve members who will represent the student body and address all suspected violations of the Honor Code.

B. Composition

1. The members of this Committee will be the presidents of the sophomore and junior classes, former sophomore and junior class presidents, a member of the freshman class, and members to be appointed from the student body at large until the Committee consists of twelve members.  

2. Appointed members.

a. The freshman class member will be appointed in the fall semester by a subcommittee comprising four members of the Honor Committee and the Undergraduate Student Government president.

b. Following spring Undergraduate Student Government elections, the Honor Committee will solicit applications from the student body at large.

c. Appointed members will serve one-year terms, but may seek reappointment thereafter. Committee members seeking reappointment may not participate in the selection process. All members of the Committee excluding the members up for reappointment will reach consensus on whether to retain appointed members or to replace them with a new applicant.

d. All appointments are subject to approval by the Undergraduate Student Government.

3. Ex officio members. The newly elected sophomore and junior class presidents and the newly appointed members will normally become members of the Committee at the beginning of the fall term following their election/appointment, but, if needed, can serve on the Committee immediately after their election.

C. Dismissal and Replacement of Members

1. The Committee may dismiss a member for neglect of duty.   A vote of nine of the eleven other members is required for such a dismissal.  If any member becomes unable to serve for any reason, or is dismissed, a new member will be appointed by the Honor Committee as explained in Article 1, Section B, subject to approval by the Undergraduate Student Government.   Any member who becomes unable to serve or is dismissed for neglect of duty must go through the same selection process as a new applicant if they wish to rejoin the committee.  

D. Clerk, Chair and Chair Emeritus

1. Clerk. Every academic year, after the first of December, a subcommittee comprising the senior class members of the Honor Committee, the Undergraduate Student Government president, and the Clerk will select a sophomore member of the Committee to serve as Clerk of the Honor Committee during the following spring and fall semesters. This subcommittee will interview all interested sophomore members of the Committee and appoint one sophomore by a majority vote. This sophomore member will automatically become a member of the Committee the following year.   In the event that the Clerk withdraws from the University, or is otherwise unable to serve as Chair, the subcommittee described above will convene to select a new Clerk from the Committee members in the spring semester of their sophomore year or fall semester of their junior year.

2. Chair. The Clerk will become the Chair of the Honor Committee at the beginning of the spring semester in their junior year. In the event that the Chair withdraws from the University, or is otherwise unable to serve as Chair in the spring semester of their junior year, the Chair Emeritus will serve as Chair until they graduate, at which time the Clerk will become Chair. In the event that the Chair withdraws from the University, or is otherwise unable to serve as Chair, in the fall semester of their senior year, the Clerk will become Chair.

3. Chair Emeritus. The former Chair will take on an advisory role, in addition to their responsibilities as a committee member, as Chair Emeritus during the spring semester of their senior year, to guide the new Chair. The Chair Emeritus may serve as acting Chair if needed.

Article II - Violations

A. The Honor Pledge

1. The Honor Pledge is as follows: "I pledge my honor that I have not violated the Honor Code during this examination." This must at all times be written in full on the examination paper and signed by the student on the examination. Any undergraduate who fails to write and sign the pledge on the examination paper will be reminded to do so by the instructor.   If the instructor or the Committee cannot promptly obtain the written and signed pledge, the student will be reported to the Committee for investigation. Unwillingness to sign the pledge following notification by the instructor or the Committee will be prima facie evidence of a violation of the Honor Code. 

B. Violations

1.      Violations of the Honor Code consist of:

a. Any attempt to gain an unfair advantage in regard to an examination, both inside and outside the examination room.

b. Any attempt to give assistance, both inside and outside the examination room, whether the student attempting to give assistance has completed his or her own work or not.

2.      Specific violations include, but are not limited to:

a. Tampering with a graded exam;

b. Claiming another's work to be one's own; and

c. Obtaining or attempting to obtain, previous to any examinations, copies of the examination papers or examination questions, or any illegal knowledge of these questions.

d. Other actions in violation of the policies set forth by the professor.

C. Perjury

1. Committing perjury, defined as lying to or purposely misleading the Committee, is also a violation of the Honor Code. It will not be considered perjury for a student to maintain his or her own innocence.  

D. Findings of Responsibility

1. A student will be found responsible if the Committee finds overwhelmingly convincing evidence that the student ought reasonably to have understood that his or her actions were in violation of the Honor Code.  

E. Reporting Suspected Violations

1. Every student is obligated to report to the Honor Committee any suspected violation of the Honor Code that they have observed.   The Committee will make every attempt to ensure the anonymity of reporting students.  Students may make reports by emailing honor@princeton.edu , contacting the chair directly, or any member of the committee.

Article III - Investigations and Hearings

A. Rights for Students In Question Under Investigation 

A student suspected of a possible violation of the Honor Code is referred to as the “student in question.” During the investigation and hearing process the rights of the student in question include:

1. Rights during investigation

a. The right to be informed that they are under investigation as the student in question before answering any questions.

b. The right to have a witness present during the initial interview with investigators.

c. The right to review in advance of the hearing all documents constituting direct material evidence.

d. The right to call witnesses.

e. The right to maintain innocence at all times during the process.

2.      Rights during Adjudication

a. The right to have a representative from the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students serve as a procedural adviser prior to the hearing.

b. The right to choose a current undergraduate member of the University community to serve as a peer representative. While the student in question is expected to provide answers to questions, the peer representative may clarify or supplement their answers. The peer representative may also question witnesses.   A current member of the Honor Committee may not serve as a peer representative.

c. The right, in the event of a finding of responsibility, to receive a copy of the chair’s summary of the case. This summary must outline the charge made against the student, describe the evidence and testimony provided in support of this charge, and provide the rationale for the Committee's finding, both in terms of verdict and punishment assigned.

d. The right, in the event of a finding of responsibility, to poll the votes of the individual Committee members.

e. The right, in the event of a finding of responsibility, to listen to any recording made of the hearing.

B. Confidentiality  

1. All those involved in the investigation and hearing process are expected to maintain the confidentiality of all student involved in the case. 

C. Investigation Procedures  

1. Upon receiving a report of a suspected violation, the Chair will appoint two members on a rotating basis to conduct a preliminary investigation.   

2. If an allegation of an Honor Code violation is made over the summer, the Committee will make every reasonable attempt to investigate it in a timely manner.   All cases that cannot be practically concluded over the summer will resume in the fall.

3. The appointed investigators may:

a. Meet with the student or students in question;

b. Meet with witnesses;

c. Collect any relevant documents or material evidence;

d. Obtain any other information bearing on the allegation.

4. Upon meeting with a student, the investigators will disclose what is currently known of their status as a student in question or a witness before questioning. Should the student’s status change during the course of the investigation, the investigators will inform them.

5. The investigators’ meeting with the student in question will proceed as follows:

a. The investigators will explain the rights of the student in question (see III.A. above).

b. The student in question will be asked to sign a statement prior to a hearing saying they have been informed of their rights under the Honor Constitution.

c. The student in question will be asked to provide an account of the suspected violation in question.

d. The student in question will be given a letter, describing the suspected violation in reasonable detail, from the reporting witness. The letter need not be signed.

e. The investigators will explain the nature of the suspected violation.

6. Upon the completion of the investigation, the two investigators in consultation with the Chair will determine whether or not a hearing is warranted.

a. If a hearing is not warranted, all records of the case that personally identify the student in question or any other student will be immediately destroyed.

b. If a hearing is warranted, the student may exercise his or her right of up to seven days of preparation.

D. Hearing Procedures

1. The place and time of all hearings will be determined by the Chair.

a. The Committee will make every reasonable attempt to hold and adjudicate the hearing in a timely manner. All cases that cannot be practically concluded over the summer will resume in the fall.

2. The hearing will proceed as follows.

a. The Chair will preside and will appoint six other members to hear the case.

b. The Committee will use a recording device to record the proceedings of each case.

c. The student in question will be given the opportunity to make statements, answer questions, present evidence, and question witnesses.

d. Members of the Committee may ask questions at any point, seek additional materials or testimony, visit any relevant location, recall or review evidence or testimony provided earlier, and in general seek to obtain any information bearing on the accusation.

e. It is incumbent upon the Honor Committee members to investigate all possible connections between the student in question and all witnesses protecting the confidentiality of all parties involved.

3. After testimony is concluded, the Chair and the six other Committee members who conducted the hearing will deliberate in private. Deliberations will proceed as follows.

a. The Committee will first deliberate on the question of whether to find the student in question responsible for the violation charged.

i.  At least six of the seven members must be overwhelmingly convinced that the student in question is responsible for the student in question to be found responsible.

ii. Documented evidence and plausibility of method, in the absence of demonstrated intent, may be enough to convict.

b. Should the Committee find the student in question responsible, the appropriate penalty will be determined by a majority vote. 

c. After deliberations have concluded, the Committee will inform the student in question of the decision.

d. If the student in question was found responsible, the Chair will write a summary directed to the dean of undergraduate students. The penalty will take effect upon imposition by the dean of undergraduate students.

4. A student will not be subjected to a second hearing for the same offense, except in light of new and important evidence, as determined by a majority vote of the Committee. The testimony of one individual, without more, will not warrant another hearing. 

Article IV - Penalties

A. Penalties         

Students found responsible for violating the Honor Code will receive penalties in accordance with Rights, Rules, Responsibilities as follows:

1. Normally, the first offense will result in a suspension of one year from the university. In all cases, the Committee may exercise the option of suspension for two or three years. This rule is subject to the following exceptions:

a. Where a student is found responsible for writing overtime on an examination or otherwise gaining a time advantage, the Committee will recommend a punishment of disciplinary probation and recommend that the student receive a zero for the examination. However, in especially egregious cases of writing overtime, the Committee will recommend a punishment of a one-year suspension.

b. Where there are extenuating circumstances, the first offense may result in a penalty of disciplinary probation. Extenuating circumstances may include, but are not limited to, situations where there was a substantial, material error on the part of an agent of the university, and situations where the Committee fails to conclude that a student should reasonably have understood that his or her actions were in violation of the Honor Code.

c. If perjury occurs, the Committee may impose a penalty of two years for the first offense.

2. Normally, a second violation of the Honor Code, or a violation of the Honor Code following a suspension for a violation of the University’s academic integrity regulations, will result in expulsion from the University.

a. Students whose first Honor Code or academic integrity violation resulted in a penalty of probation may face either suspension or expulsion should they be found responsible for a second violation of the Honor Code.

3. In cases adjudicated prior to the last day of classes, if the final decision is a separation from the University (e.g., suspension or expulsion), the student will normally not earn credit for the semester in which the infraction occurred. If the case is adjudicated during reading or exam period or if the student has essentially completed course requirements while awaiting the final disposition of the matter, obtaining credit for the semester will be at the discretion of the Committee. In such cases, the Honor Committee will normally recommend that the student receive a failing grade in the course in which the violation occurred.

B. Appeals

A student found responsible for a violation may appeal the Honor Committee’s decision as follows:  

1. Only the dean of the college may review the final penalty recommended by the Honor Committee.

2. Appeals can only be made on the grounds of procedural unfairness or harmful bias.

3. An appeal of the decision of the Honor Committee must be directed to the dean of the college in writing within one week of the Committee's decision.   A student interested in appealing should first contact the associate secretary of the University to discuss the appeal process.

4. If the dean of the college determines that a penalty of the Honor Committee should be reduced, the dean will make a recommendation to the President, describing the reasons for the proposed modification, and the president will decide whether or not to implement the recommendation.

5. The penalty recommended by the Honor Committee may not be increased upon appeal.  

6. In the case of a successful appeal, the Honor Committee will destroy all records of the case that personally identify the student in question or any other student .

C. Enrollment Status

1. If the student in question is found responsible, and if the appeal does not alter the Committee’s decision, the penalty will normally be considered effective as of the date of the original decision.

2. If a senior is found responsible for a violation during the spring reading or exam period, or if the senior has essentially completed all spring course requirements, the senior’s degree may be withheld in lieu of suspension. In such cases, the Honor Committee will normally recommend that the student receive a failing grade in the course in which the violation occurred.

3. Under normal circumstances, when a violation requiring suspension occurs during the fall term, the student in question will not be eligible to return until the following fall term.   When a violation requiring suspension occurs during the spring term, the student in question will not be eligible to return until the following spring term.

4. Pending a hearing or the student's decision about whether to appeal a separation from the University or the withholding of the degree, and/or while an appeal is in process, an administrative hold will be placed on the student's University transcript. Should the student decide not to appeal a separation or the withholding of the degree, or should an appeal not result in an alteration of the committee's decision to dismiss the student or withhold his or her degree, the registrar will record the fact of the penalty on the student's transcript.  

Article V - Publications  

A. Constitution Publication

1. The Constitution will be published by the first week of each academic year. It will also be printed in Rights, Rules, Responsibilities, copies of which are issued to all students upon matriculation at the University. In addition, Article II will be circulated immediately before midterm and final examinations. 

B. Publication of Committee Statistics

1. Every year, the Committee will publish aggregated, anonymous statistics for the last five years, indicating the number of students reported to the Committee, the types of violations that are reported, the number of cases that go to hearing, the respective outcomes of those cases, the number of appeals made, and the respective outcomes of those appeals.

Article VI - Amending the Constitution

A. The Constitution may be amended in the following ways:

1. Upon the initiative of ten of the twelve members of the Committee, followed by a three-fourths vote of the Undergraduate Student Government members present at a meeting of the Undergraduate Student Government; or

2. Upon the initiative by petition of 200 members of the undergraduate body, followed by a three-fourths vote in a student referendum as conducted by the Elections Committee of the Undergraduate Student Government. Article VI can be amended only by such a student referendum.