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COD mails letter on academic honesty

By Brian Rosenberg

Students will soon receive a letter from the Committee on Discipline that expresses concern over the possibility that "cheating and plagiarism have become rampant on campus." The COD hopes to prompt students to discuss the issues surrounding academic honesty, including the possible adoption of an honor code, according to COD Chair Nelson Y-S. Kiang.

The letter was prompted by testimony given by several students during the hearings surrounding the Introduction to Computers and Engineering Problem Solving (1.00) class in the spring of 1990. Seventy-eight undergraduates from the class were charged with misconduct, the largest such incident in MIT history. "Many students said that everyone cheats at MIT, [that] you have to cheat to stay even," Kiang said. "I don't believe that, but the perception is out there," he said.

"We've also seen quite a number of other cases of misconduct recently, and we decided it was time to reemphasize" academic honesty, Kiang said. He also said students often do not understand the serious consequences of cheating.

The letter will be distributed through US and interdepartmental mail, and will appear in the next faculty newsletter, Kiang said.

COD unanimously supports

establishment of honor code

An informal poll taken at a recent COD meeting found that the committee unanimously supported MIT's adoption of an honor code. The COD does not make policy, however, and Kiang said he currently has no specific plans. "We're going to try to find out more about schools that have such a system," he said. Wellesley College, the California Institute of Technology and the United States service academies all have honor codes of some sort.

Kiang said the current COD is becoming proactive, rather than reactive. "We'd like to help educate as to what the proper behavior is" in order to reduce the number of cases, he said. "We would encourage the students to take the initiative and discuss this among themselves and with their faculty advisors," Kiang added.

"It is very different to agree in principle and to think it will work here," said Undergraduate Association Vice President J. Paul Kirby '93.

"There are a lot of questions that need to be asked, such as `Why do students cheat?' and `Do people have the same definitions of cheating?' " Kirby said.

Jason A. Quick '95 opposes the idea of an honor code. "There's enough pressure at MIT to begin with, and if I had knowledge of other people cheating, I would have the pressure of reporting or cheating myself," he said.

Elizabeth Y. C. Oh '94 said she thought an honor code is a good idea, but that it would not work at MIT. "The people who find out about [cheating] are usually friends or acquaintances, and won't really report it."