Publication: Rights, Rules, Responsibilities, 2005-06

II. Students and the University (cont.)

The Undergraduate Honor System

Jurisdiction over Undergraduates for Violations of Academic Rules and Regulations

Jurisdiction over violations of academic rules and regulations rests with two distinct committees at Princeton. All written examinations, tests, and quizzes that take place in class are conducted under the honor system. All violations of the honor system are the concern of the Undergraduate Honor Committee. Violations of rules and regulations pertaining to all other academic work, including essays, term papers, and laboratory reports, fall under the jurisdiction of the Faculty/Student Committee on Discipline. Should there be any uncertainty regarding which body is responsible for the adjudication of a particular case, clarification should be requested from the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students and the chair of the Honor Committee.

Introduction

At Princeton all in-class written examinations, tests, and quizzes are conducted under the honor system. Its constitution is printed in full below. A letter explaining the honor system is sent by the chair of the Honor Committee to each newly admitted student, who then signifies by signing the honor system statement that he or she understands and will abide by the conditions under which the honor system is conducted. Final entrance to the University is contingent upon the committee’s receipt of this letter. Status as a student “in good standing” and graduation from the University are contingent upon continued participation in the honor system. The Honor Committee consists of three current class presidents, three past class presidents, and three undergraduates selected by application from the student body at large. Three additional undergraduates are selected from the student body at large to serve as alternates on the Honor Committee.

Under the honor system, the students assume full responsibility for honesty in written examinations. Examinations are not supervised. The instructor in charge distributes the examination papers, waits for a short time for any questions, and then leaves the room, returning at the end of the stated period to collect the answer books. On each examination paper, the student writes out and signs the following statement: “I pledge my honor that I have not violated the honor code during this examination.”

Every student acknowledges the obligation to report any suspected violation of the honor system that he or she has observed. It is the common understanding among Princeton students that, where the honor system is concerned, an individual’s obligation to the undergraduate student body as a whole transcends any reluctance to report another student. Thus, under the honor system students have a twofold obligation: individually, they must not violate the code, and as a community, they are responsible to see that suspected violations are reported.

Violations of the honor system are the concern of the Undergraduate Honor Committee. When a report of a suspected violation of the honor system is received, the Honor Committee immediately conducts an investigation. If the investigation indicates that it is warranted, the full Honor Committee is convened and a confidential hearing is held. If the student in question is acquitted, all records of the hearing are destroyed. If a student is found guilty, the committee recommends an appropriate penalty to the Dean of Undergraduate Students. Normally, a student found guilty of violating the honor code can expect to be suspended from the University for one, two, or three years. A second offense will result in expulsion.

Procedures during the course of an examination are determined by the faculty member present. Students may not leave the examination room without the specific permission of the faculty member. Such permission must be granted uniformly; that is, if one student is allowed to leave the room, no other may be denied such permission upon request. Students may not take their examinations with them outside of the examination room. Students are advised to sit one seat apart from other students, to refrain from bringing notes and books into the examination room, and if possible, to avoid sitting near those with whom they have studied. Laptop computers as well as hand-held electronic communication devices (e.g., cell phones, blackberries, etc.) are forbidden in final examination rooms. Additionally, students may not wear headphones attached to audio devices during examinations. The faculty member, who is present only briefly to answer questions and to pick up the completed examinations, has the responsibility to make sure the examinations are turned in by students at the appropriate time.

Princeton’s honor system was established by the undergraduates in 1893 and has been in effect without interruption since that time. It has been successful because generations of undergraduates have respected it, and by common agreement have given it highest place among their obligations as Princeton students.

Current Procedure

Much of the internal organization and virtually all of the operating procedures of the Honor Committee are determined by the committee itself. The tone and style of each year’s committee may vary, but there is continuity in procedure from year to year. Generally there are at least three members on the committee who have served previously.

A typical case would be conducted as follows:

A suspected violation of the honor system is brought to the attention of the Honor Committee by a reporting witness. The reporting witness is typically a faculty member, a student, or the violator. The member of the committee receiving the report calls the chair. On a rotating basis, two members of the committee conduct a preliminary investigation of the allegation. The meeting in which investigators notify the student in question of their alleged violation will be taped for possible use by the committee or the accused student if a hearing is held. If the evidence warrants it, the chair sets a time and place for a hearing. A representative from the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students will serve as procedural advisor for the student in question. The two investigators and/or the chair inform the student in question of the charge at least 24 hours before the hearing and may also ask potential witnesses to appear at the hearing. As much confidentiality as possible is maintained during the investigation in order to protect the principals from rumor.

Evidence for the hearing usually includes the examination(s) in question and any other relevant material, which are duplicated, if necessary, for use by the individual members of the committee during the hearing. If a faculty member reports the alleged violation, or if consultation with the professor administering the examination or the preceptor or section leader of the student in question seems helpful, the committee may call that person or persons to the actual hearing to discuss the facts as then known. The committee may also have present, during the hearing, a student or faculty member who is knowledgeable in the field of the examination in question.

After a report of a suspected violation is received, the chair normally consults with the dean of undergraduate students or the dean’s designee concerning the general character of the suspected violation, the nature of the investigation in progress, and any questions that may arise during the course of the investigation. The chair may also, if he or she deems it necessary, consult with the dean during the course of the hearing. The chair also informs an associate dean of undergraduate students of the name of the person under investigation. The associate dean of undergraduate students provides the chair and the two investigators, prior to any scheduled hearing, whatever information he or she determines is appropriate concerning the student in question for consideration by the committee. This might include any special or extraordinary circumstances affecting the student. While an investigation or hearing is underway, the notation “Status Under Review” may, in situations where necessary, be added to the transcript of the student in question.

In the hearing, witnesses provide information about the possible violation that has been observed and are questioned by the committee. Next, the student in question is called before the committee. The student in question is urged to choose a defense advocate who will be present throughout the hearing. Only a current undergraduate member of the University community who is not a member of the Honor Committee may serve as the defense advocate. The defense advocate may ask questions of all witnesses. Though investigators do not participate in deliberations, they will have an opportunity to contribute information pertaining to the investigation following each witness’ testimony. At the conclusion of all testimony, the investigators may, in the presence of the defense advocate, present a summary of the case. Before the committee begins deliberations on guilt or innocence, the defense advocate and the student in question will have the option of delivering a final defense summary to the committee. The identities of the student in question, the reporting witness, and any other witnesses are kept completely confidential. This helps to insure that honor code–related cases will not lead to prejudice outside the hearing room.

The only adequate defense for a student accused of an honor code violation is that his or her actions did not, in fact, constitute a violation. In determining whether an honor code violation has occurred or the severity of such a violation, the committee may take into account whether the student should have reasonably understood that his or her actions were in violation of University policy and/or exam room procedures. Neither the defense that the student was ignorant of the regulations concerning the exam nor the defense that the student was under pressure at the time the violation was committed is considered an adequate defense.

The principals and witnesses may be called for testimony several times before the committee renders a judgment. The committee deliberates in private and arrives at a decision by individual vote. If the student is found to have intentionally misled the committee during the course of the hearing, the committee may take that fact into account in reaching a conclusion and assigning a penalty. When a decision is reached, the student in question is called and informed of the judgment. Then the reporting witness is informed of the judgment, thanked for the exercise of a responsibility that is difficult but necessary, and cautioned against discussion of the case. If the student in question is acquitted, all written record of his or her involvement in the case is destroyed, and the case is reported to the president at the end of the term with letters substituted for names. Copies of these records, which are retained by the committee, aid future committees by the precedents they contain, although for the most part the committee is likely to consider each case as unique rather than search for a decision in a similar case.

If a person is found guilty, he or she is informed of the punishment, which is, at the committee’s discretion, a one-, two-, or three-year suspension, or in the case of a second offense, permanent expulsion. The committee shall also have recourse, in the presence of extenuating circumstances, to probation up to four years, which becomes a part of the student’s permanent record. Only the Dean of Undergraduate Students may review the final penalty. An appeal of a decision of the Honor Committee should be directed to the Office of the Dean of the College. Such appeals can only be made on the grounds of procedural unfairness or harmful bias. The penalty levied by the Honor Committee may not be increased upon appeal. 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.

Constitution of the Honor System

Adopted by the undergraduates in 1893. Amended in 2004.

Article I

1. There shall be a committee consisting of nine full members and three alternate members who shall represent the student body and deal with all cases involving suspected violations of the honor system.

2. The members of this committee shall be the presidents of the first-year, sophomore, and junior classes, three former class presidents, and three members to be appointed by the committee from the student body at large. Three additional undergraduates shall be chosen from this same applicant pool to serve as alternates to the committee. They shall be considered as full members of the committee but shall participate and vote in hearings and deliberations only if there would otherwise be an absence of a quorum. The alternates shall not conduct investigations.

3. The president of the sophomore class shall normally remain as a member until the end of his or her sophomore year and shall automatically become the clerk of the committee at the beginning of his or her junior year. In case he or she is elected president of the junior class, the Honor Committee shall appoint a student to fill the resulting vacancy, subject to approval by the Undergraduate Student Government. All senior members of the committee will normally serve through their entire senior year.

4. The president of the junior class and the former sophomore class president will normally serve until the end of their junior year and will automatically become members of the committee at the beginning of their senior year.

5. The former sophomore class president will serve as chair of the committee in his or her senior year. In the event that the former sophomore class president withdraws from the University, or is otherwise unable to serve as chair of the committee, the senior member of the committee who was junior class president will serve as chair.

6. The newly elected sophomore and junior class presidents will normally become members of the committee at the beginning of the fall term following their election, but, if needed, can serve on the committee immediately after their election. The first-year class president will serve immediately following his or her election.

7. Following spring elections, the Honor Committee will solicit applications from the student body at large for the remaining positions on the committee. Appointed members shall serve one-year terms, but may seek reappointment thereafter. Committee members seeking reappointment shall not participate in the selection process. All appointments are subject to approval by the Undergraduate Student Government.

Article II

1. The committee may dismiss a member for neglect of duty. A vote of nine of the eleven other members would be required for such a dismissal.

2. If any member shall for any reason become unable to serve or be dismissed, an alternate shall be appointed by the committee to replace the member. A new alternate shall then be appointed by the Honor Committee subject to approval by the Undergraduate Student Government.

3. If action of the committee becomes necessary before the selection of this new alternate or before the fall election of the first-year class president, the members of the committee at that time shall constitute a temporary committee for the particular case with the same regulations of power, procedure, and penalties as adopted in this constitution.

Article III

1. The committee shall have power to summon the student or students in question, witness or witnesses, documents, and articles of material evidence, and to seek to obtain any information bearing on the accusation. Only the seven voting members of the committee who participate in the hearing shall meet to determine whether the student or students in question be guilty or not guilty of violating the honor system.

2. Following the conviction of a student, the voting members of the committee who determined guilt shall meet to determine the penalty. A decision on the penalty shall require a majority vote. The convicted person or persons may not attend this meeting. The committee shall assign a penalty and report it to the Dean of Undergraduate Students. The penalty shall take effect upon imposition by the Dean of Undergraduate Students.

3. Under normal circumstances, individuals convicted of cheating shall be subject to the following penalties: The first offense will result in a penalty of suspension for one year or, if perjury occurs, suspension for two or three years. The second offense will result in expulsion from the University. In the absence of perjury, the committee shall also have recourse to suspension for two or three years. In all cases, the committee may exercise the option of required withdrawal and /or censure. Extenuating circumstances include, but are not limited to, instances in which the committee fails to conclude that a student should reasonably have understood that his or her actions were in violation of the honor code. Under this probation, a second violation of the honor code will result in suspension or expulsion.

4. Under normal circumstances, when a violation requiring suspension occurs during the fall term, the convicted person or persons shall not be eligible to return until the following fall term. When a violation requiring suspension occurs during the spring term, the convicted person or persons shall not be eligible to return until the following spring term. If a senior is involved in a violation during the spring term, the student’s degree may be withheld until the spring of the following year. Only the Dean of the College may review the final penalty. An appeal of the decision of the Honor Committee should be directed to the Dean of the College. Such appeals can only be made on the grounds of procedural unfairness or harmful bias. The penalty levied by the Honor Committee may not be increased upon appeal. 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. Under extreme, exceptional circumstances, the committee may allow a student to complete the term in which the violation occurred and be removed from the University for the following two semesters. In such cases the Honor Committee would recommend that the student receive a failing grade in the course in which the violation occurred.

Article IV

1. The place and time of all hearings shall be determined by the chair of the committee.

2. The hearing shall be conducted in the following manner with the chair presiding. The reporting witness will first report his or her suspicion to the committee. Additional witnesses may also appear before the committee. The student in question will then be heard and given the opportunity to present evidence and witnesses. 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. Investigators will have an opportunity to contribute information pertaining to the investigation following each witness’ testimony. At the conclusion of all testimony, the investigators may, with the defense advocate present, present a summary of the case. The committee will deliberate in private, and a determination that the honor code has been violated shall require the presence of overwhelmingly convincing evidence. Documented evidence and plausibility of method, in the absence of demonstrated intent, may be enough to convict.

3. On a rotating basis, the chair shall appoint two members of the committee to conduct a preliminary investigation. After conducting this preliminary investigation, the two investigators in consultation with the chair shall determine whether or not a hearing is warranted. If a hearing is not warranted, all records of the case shall be immediately destroyed. If a hearing is warranted, the student in question is urged to choose a defense advocate. Only a current undergraduate member of the University community may serve as the defense advocate. The defense advocate may present a summary of the case prior to the committee’s deliberations. The investigators will, at the conclusion of the hearing, write a casebook summary and/or the summary directed to the Dean of Undergraduate Students.

4. A quorum shall consist of seven voting members. The number of votes necessary for conviction shall be as follows: six of seven, or seven of seven.

5. All evidence shall be procured in every case, and in no event shall a student be tried a second time for the same offense, except in light of new and important evidence to be determined by a majority vote of the committee. The testimony of one individual by itself shall not be sufficient to warrant another hearing.

6. The student in question shall learn of the charges brought against him or her through a letter, which need not be signed, written in some reasonable detail by the witness who reported the suspected violation. The investigators shall explain the charges and enumerate the rights of the student in question as hereinafter provided in Article IV, Section 7. The student in question shall be asked to sign a statement prior to a hearing saying he or she has been informed of his or her rights under the honor constitution. Upon receipt of the letter of accusation, the student may exercise his or her right of up to seven days of preparation for the Honor Committee hearing.

7. The rights of the student in question shall include:

a) The right to have a witness present at the first “confrontation” or questioning by the investigators during the investigation process;

b) the right to review in advance all documents constituting direct material evidence;

c) the right to call witnesses;

d) the right to have a representative from the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students serve as a procedural advisor prior to the hearing to advise the student in question of matters concerning Honor Committee procedures.

e) the right to choose a current undergraduate member of the University community to serve as a defense advocate to speak on the behalf of the student in question and to question all witnesses. The student in question may not serve as his or her own defense advocate.

f) the right, in the event of a conviction, to receive a copy of a summary statement of the grounds for the committee’s decision, and to poll the votes of the individual committee members. This summary statement 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.

g) the right, in the event of a conviction, to receive a record of the hearing.

8. It is incumbent upon the Honor Committee members to investigate all possible connections between the student in question and all witnesses, and any potential ulterior motives involved in the case, while protecting the confidentiality of all parties involved.

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

Article V

1. Violations of the honor system shall consist of any attempt to receive assistance from written or printed aids, or from any person or papers, or of any attempt to give assistance, whether the one so doing has completed his or her own work or not. This rule holds both inside and outside of the examination room. Other violations include, but are not limited to, any attempt to gain an unfair advantage in regard to an examination, such as tampering with a graded exam or claiming another’s work to be one’s own.

2. Violations shall also consist of obtaining or attempting to obtain, previous to any examinations, copies of the examination papers or the questions to appear thereon, or to obtain any illegal knowledge of these questions.

3. Termed perjury, lying before the committee or purposely misleading the committee shall also constitute a violation of the honor code.

4. Any undergraduate not signing the pledge placed upon the examination paper will be notified by the instructor holding the examination, and, if unable then to sign, he or she will be reported to the committee for investigation. Inability to sign the pledge to an examination paper upon notification by the instructor or by the committee shall be prima facie evidence of violation of the honor system.

5. The 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 and signed by the student.

6. Every student is obligated to report to the Honor Committee any suspected violation of the honor code that he or she has observed.

Article VI

1. The committee may use recording devices to tape the proceedings of each case.

2. The committee will keep a written record of all cases acted upon. These records, together with the constitution, shall be preserved by the chair of the committee each year, for the instruction of the committee. In the case of an acquittal, all record of a person’s involvement is destroyed.

Article VII

The constitution may be amended (a) upon the initiative of seven of the nine 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 (b) 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 VII can be amended only by a student referendum.

Article VIII

The constitution shall be published during the first week of each college year. It shall also be printed in a pamphlet, copies of which shall be issued to all students upon matriculation at the University, as well as to new members of the teaching staff. Article V of this constitution shall be published immediately before midterm and final examinations begin.