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Honesty Forum Planned for Fall

By Brian Rosenberg
Editor in Chief

Preparing for a proposed colloquium on academic honesty this fall, the Undergraduate Academic Affairs Office has released a survey asking students to relate their experiences.

The Colloquium Committee, chaired by UAAO head Travis R. Merritt, plans the colloquium, tentatively called "Success and/or Honesty: In Here, Out There," for Oct. 21.

The name refers to the committee's efforts to foster interaction between members of the MIT community and people in the "real world" with an interest in honesty and integrity.

"We'd like to get some very well-known speakers with an interest" in academic honesty, said Nelson Y.-S. Kiang, chair of the Committee on Discipline and a member of the colloquium committee. Kiang said the committee is developing a list of potential panelists and expects replies during the summer.

The forum will be similar to the "Teaching in a Research University" colloquium held in the fall, Merritt said. The colloquium will have two parts: a large meeting in Kresge for about an hour and a half, followed by dinner and discussion within individual departments.

The committee is considering several possible formats, Merritt said. Ideas include a panel discussion or a debate in which on-stage participants choose sides on a particular statement and argue it. Merritt said it may be possible for audience members to interrupt a panelist and take his or her place on stage.

"My largest goal is to have some mechanism that gives faculty and students some leverage with each other," said Anne S. Tsao '94, chair of the UA committee on the colloquium. "The faculty need to have something more than the [Course Evaluation Guide] to find out how they're doing."

Survey to explore attitudes

The UAAO has distributed a survey on academic dishonesty to 890 undergraduates as a way to "get at the attitudes and values which underlie the problem," according to Merritt.

"We're trying to find not only the size of the iceberg, the magnitude of the problem, but to see if there is a reasonable means of addressing the problem," he added.

Merritt said almost 40 percent of the surveys had been returned. Students who return the anonymous survey are also asked to fill out a card with their names indicating that they have completed the survey. This system preserves the survey's anonymity while allowing the UASO to know which surveys are still outstanding, Merritt said.

Suzanne M. Starnes '92, who filled out the survey, said it was good but that "a lot of students won't fill it out because it's so long." She added that "it may surprise the administration to find out what students think" about academic honesty.

Merritt emphasized the need for students to fill out and return the questionnaires. "We're looking for at least a 50 percent reply rate," he said. Students who have misplaced their questionnaires can pick up an additional copy at the UASO office.