Tulane Honor Code undergoes revisions to better accommodate freshmen

Brandi Doyal, Print News Editor

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Undergraduate Student Government passed legislation to revise the Tulane Honor Code to create an easier transition period for freshmen at the University.

The legislation was presented as a first reading, then later passed at the April 7 senate meeting. 

The legislation aims to turn first-time minor honor code violations into learning experiences rather than punish offenders. 

Senior Sean Saxon, former USG vice president for academic affairs, said revising the honor code is meant to help freshmen adjust to college and give the Honor Board more flexibility when making decisions at hearings.

“[These revisions] will allow us to help make the process a more instructional, rather than solely punitive, one, specifically in regards to our freshman students,” Saxon said. “These changes will allow the Honor Board to sanction students without permanently blemishing their record.”

The decision stems from the realization that many freshmen face honor code violations because they unknowingly commit plagiarism. Some students are able to bypass the required freshman writing class, which leads to discrepancies in the knowledge students have of honor code violations like plagiarism.

“Our students come from hundreds of different types of prep high schools across the United States,” Saxon said. “These high schools are not equal in their instructional quality, English being a prime example.”

Saxon said he does not believe that these changes are too lenient on students because of the environment these changes will encourage.

“[These changes] will allow the Honor Board to leverage less harsh sanctions under the appropriate circumstances,” Saxon said. “We will never shirk away from our duty to uphold the Code of Academic Conduct to the letter. If anything, we expect to see fewer cases go to trial with the expanded plea options.”

The Honor Board will reserve the right to punish students guilty of egregious offenses. More serious cases will go to trial and those accused of committing serious offenses will not be able to waive a hearing.

“There is an epidemic of academic dishonesty across all four grades, not just freshmen,” Saxon said. “However, it is with the freshmen that we see the most cases of academic dishonesty because of ignorance of the Code of Academic Conduct or what exactly constitutes plagiarism.”

Saxon said these changes are more in line with what Tulane University’s peer institutions practice and that these changes will only benefit the Honor Board, allowing them to uphold the code while better serving the students.

Freshman Lauren Kerby said that the way the changes are implemented will have a large effect on how they should be viewed.

“I feel that cheating is a big deal and needs to be treated that way,” Kerby said. “If this change to the honor code will do that, then it is fine. But if it digresses from upholding the standard of people turning in their own work, then the new honor code isn’t for the best.”

Molly Travis, Associate Dean of the Newcomb-Tulane College, said the honor code revisions would be presented to the Newcomb-Tulane faculty for approval in the first week of May.

“Any kind of revision like this pertaining to academics must be presented and approved by this body,” Travis said.

Specifics about the honor code changes were not given because it has yet to go before the Newcomb-Tulane faculty, where some changes may happen. 

If approved, these changes will go into effect this August at the beginning of the Fall 2015 term.