Virginia Tech's Honor System
According to Neal Kegley, the honor system’s operations manager, the honor system at Tech was created in 1908 and was originally run by the Corps of Cadets. In the 1930s, Tech started admitting civilians to the university and in 1935 the honor system split into two separate systems — one for the university and one for the corps. Cadets must follow the university’s honor code as well as theirs.
“Historically it was a very poor system,” Buikema said, adding that things have changed since the honor system was completely revamped about 15 years ago.
“In my opinion, it works very well right now,” he said. “I’m really impressed with the young people who work for the honor system. They work inordinate hours to make sure cases are heard in a timely manner.”
Tech’s honor code pledge is “I have neither given nor received unauthorized assistance on this assignment,” which Tech students have pledged to abide by upon admission
There are three main violations to Tech’s honor code: cheating, plagiarism and falsification. Violations to the honor code are classified into one of six categories based on the severity and the circumstances of the offense. Any student accused of a violation, however, has the right to appear before the honor court. The judicial panel consists of four student judges and one faculty member, with an associate justice who oversees the panel.
According to Buikema, the honor court sees about 200 to 300 cases a year. However, he believes this number could and should be higher.
“It is my perception that not all faculty want to go through the bother of turning in a student,” he said.
There are statistics that substantiate Buikema’s statement. According to the International Center for Academic Integrity (ICAI), of which Tech is a member and McCabe is the founding president, fewer college officials (35%) believe that cheating is a problem in this country than do members of the public (41%).
ICAI’s website also states, “In the past it was the struggling student who was more likely to cheat just to get by. Today it is also the above-average college bound students who are cheating.”
“Obviously very bright kids go to Harvard and they’re all capable of doing the work,” McCabe said. “They’re just doing this, I would assume, to try to save some time and make sure that they get that A.”
McCabe cited the tough, competitive environment fostered at institutions such as Harvard as the motivation for some students to cheat.
"That doesn’t justify it, but I kind of understand it,” he said.