SJU Wants to Implement Honor Code to Raise Academics

Students voiced their concerns and suggestions over the possible implementation of a University-wide student honor code at a forum sponsored by Student Government, Inc. on Nov. 5.

If St. John’s decides to implement an honor code, future freshmen will be required to sign a pledge promising to follow the college’s policies against cheating and plagiarism. If they refuse to comply, they forfeit their acceptance to St. John’s University.

According to the New York Times, student honor codes have been adopted by various institutions such as the University of Virginia for more than 160 years.

In addition to an honor code, future plans include workshops using the Writing Center, Discover New York Classes and Freshman Orientation to help students and teach them how to cite sources properly and promote overall academic integrity, according to senior Caragh DeLuca, academic affairs chair of Student Government.

St. John’s is also considering the possibility of adopting a grade of XF, which indicates that a course was failed through cheating and would remain on a transcript, she said.

The New York Times report also stated that the idea of an XF grade was established at the University of North Carolina and the University of Maryland has already begun using a similar type of grade.

“We are looking to form a committee that would decide on all aspects. The committee would consist of students, faculty and administrators,” DeLuca said. “It would be input from all ends.”

Currently, each college of St. John’s University establishes their own policy and guidelines outlining the boundaries of academic dishonesty, including cheating and plagiarism, and how offenders should be punished.

Therefore, a student from St. John’s College is not held up to the same criteria as a student from the College of Professional Studies.

According to the online version of the St. John’s handbook, “when academic misconduct is alleged charges are presented to the Dean of the school in which the student is enrolled.” From there, either the dean or a committee, made up of two faculty members, two undergraduate students and the dean from the specified college, have 10 calender days to decide the outcome of the hearing.

The University-wide honor code would eliminate the confusion caused by the different standards.

“[Since] we receive a degree from St. John’s University and not necessarily from each individual school, the feeling is that the policy should be standard across the board for all students,” said DeLuca. “It’s not fair that one college is more lenient about such a policy and other colleges are strict,” she said.

For example, universities such as Colgate University and Kansas State University, have mandated orientation sessions on their new honor codes.

The tentative student honor code will be drafted by an academic affairs committee within Student Government, said Nina Petraro, a senior senator of Student Government. It is subject to the approval of the University Senate and Board of Directors and could possibly be implemented as early as Fall 2003, she said.

According to Louis Saavedra, sophomore senator of Student Government, students would be made aware of the new policy against academic dishonesty through professors, fliers, St. John’s Webmail, and advertisements in The Torch.

The idea of an honor code at St. John’s was well-received by most who attended the forum.

“I’m for the honor code because when people talk about St. John’s, they usually see us as a sports school, but really, we’re not about sports. We’re here for academics,” said Saavedra. “By having the honor code, we’re giving ourselves respect and integrity,” he said.

Many agree that the University-wide honor code is something that St. John’s has really needed.

“As a proud alum and administrator, I think we need to raise the bar and challenge our students academically to utilize the knowledge they have in the classroom and apply it to the world outside,” Mary Pelkowski, director of Campus Activities, said.

“St. John’s is finally taking a step toward academics,” said Aion Hoque, president of Student Government.

Nekiesha Henry, a sophomore representative for the College of Professional Studies for Student Government, suggested that the pledge be printed at the top of an exam as an alternative to requiring freshmen to sign it upon acceptance.

“I think it’s safe to reinforce it in each exam because when you come in and you sign a paper just to get into St. John’s and that’s it, you won’t ever think about it again,” she said.

Others are less optimistic about the goals of the honor code. “Implementing an honor code won’t change anything because a lot of rules in St. John’s are not enforced,” said Jason Kelly, a junior computer science major. “It’s just going to be another piece of paper that’s going to be mandatory to [sign].”