Assembly focuses on the value of integrity


Princeton NJ -- The importance of integrity -- to students in their studies at Princeton and in their lives beyond FitzRandolph Gate -- will be underscored during a new event planned for Sunday, Sept. 21.

Former Sen. Bill Bradley will be the keynote speaker at the first "Integrity Assembly," which will begin at 7 p.m. on Cannon Green. The gathering was initiated by students to encourage their peers to rededicate themselves to the principles of honesty and integrity. It is open to all members of the University community.

"We hope that students will come away from this assembly with a greater sense of why integrity is so important," said Eli Goldsmith, chair of the Undergraduate Honor Committee and president of the senior class. "The Honor Code and academic integrity rules are not put into place to punish students, but to teach them lessons that will carry over into the rest of their lives."

Citing recent reports of student plagiarism involving the Internet as well as corporate scandals, Goldsmith said it's increasingly important to emphasize core values such as truthfulness and honor. "It's up to you and your peers to have your own sense of integrity," he said.

Under Princeton's honor system, established by undergraduates in 1893, students assume full responsibility for honesty in written examina- tions. Upon entering the University, they must agree in writing to abide by the condition of the honor system. On examinations, which are not supervised by faculty, students must write and sign a pledge that they have not violated the Honor Code.

Students also are asked to abide by other academic regulations designed to safeguard the integrity of scholarship on out-of-class exercises such as term papers, laboratory reports and problem sets on which they sign a similar pledge.

The Undergraduate Honor Committee, made up of 12 students, deals with infractions involving all written examinations that take place in class. The 13-member Faculty/Student Committee on Discipline deals with such cases outside of the classroom.

Kathleen Deignan, dean of undergraduate students, has brought these groups together for the past two years to discuss how to improve procedures. Students from both committees expressed an interest not only in refining their processes but in educating their peers.

"We have talked with students about the nuts and bolts of the Honor Committee -- how it works to enforce the Honor Code," Goldsmith said. "But we haven't spent as much time as we should on why the value of integrity is important in a community of scholars."

While noting that the number of honor and discipline infractions has remained fairly constant over recent years, Deignan said that she agreed with the students' view that integrity should be more widely discussed on campus.

"In an academic community," she said, "words and ideas are the coin of the realm and, as such, we cannot emphasize enough the importance of scholarly integrity. It is a bedrock value for us, not unlike the fiduciary trust a bank must preserve with its customers. We hope to remind students why it is important, each year, to rededicate themselves to these values and to consider how these values will continue to guide their actions and decisions in their personal and professional lives beyond this University."

The students came up with the idea of the assembly. For many years in the past, the University gathered freshmen in the fall for an honor assembly. The students decided to give the old tradition a broader audience by including all students as well as faculty and staff.

They also wanted to present a diversity of viewpoints, so they invited several speakers: Bradley, a 1965 alumnus and Rhodes Scholar who played professional basketball, served as a U.S. senator from New Jersey from 1979 to 1995 and ran for president in 2000; John Fleming, the Louis W. Fairchild '24 Professor of English and Comparative Literature; and Liz Biney-Amissah, a member of the class of 2004.

The students hope the assembly will become an annual event. In case of bad weather, the assembly will move to Dillon Gymnasium. It will be broadcast live on campus and community cable television Channels A11 or 27.


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