The Honor Code

Revised and Approved by the Wesleyan Student Assembly and Faculty, May 2010

  1. Introduction

    In an academic community, learning and evaluation require explicit and shared agreements on intellectual honesty and academic integrity. At Wesleyan, these values and the standards of academic conduct they imply constitute the Honor Code, the affirmation of which is a condition of enrollment. Adjudication of alleged violations of the Honor Code issue from a board comprised of students. The board ensures consistent interpretation and sanctions for violations while serving as a constant reminder of communal principles. Violations against the code are violations against the community, the ultimate source of the principles articulated below. Accordingly, upon witnessing or otherwise becoming aware of an apparent violation, members of the community have an obligation to report the violation or to discuss it with the appropriate faculty member, a member of the board, or the dean of students.
  2. The Honor Code

    1. The Pledge

      The pledge is an affirmation of each student’s agreement to adhere to the standards of academic integrity set by Wesleyan’s Honor Code. In order to promote constant awareness of the Honor Code, faculty are encouraged to ask students to sign the pledge when submitting any academic exercise for evaluation. The pledges read as follows:
      For Papers and Similar Written Work: In accordance with the Honor Code, I affirm that this work is my own and all content taken from other sources has been properly acknowledged.
      For Tests and Other Academic Exercises:
      In accordance with the Honor Code, I affirm that this work has been completed without improper assistance.

    2. Honor Code Regulations

      1. The attempt to give or obtain assistance in a formal academic exercise without due acknowledgment. This includes, but is not limited to: cheating during an exam; helping another student to cheat or to plagiarize; completing a project for some- one and/or asking someone to complete a project for you.

      2. Plagiarism—the presentation of another person’s words, ideas, images, data, or research as one’s own. Plagiarism is more than lifting a text word-for-word, even from sources in the public domain. Paraphrasing or using any content or terms coined by others without proper acknowledgment also constitutes plagiarism. (Please see a detailed definition of Plagiarism below). 

      3. The submission of the same work for academic credit more than once without permission.

      4. Willful falsification of data, information, or citations in any formal exercise.

      5. Deception concerning adherence to the conditions set by the instructor for a formal academic    exercise.

 

PLAGIARISM

The Honor Code to which students subscribe upon entering Wesleyan is merely a special application of the unwritten code that governs all academic and scholarly affairs.  Scholars on whatever level must represent their findings truthfully.  This means, first, that they will not tamper with the truth as they see it.  It means, second, that they will not offer as theirs what others discovered or wrote—will not be guilty of plagiarism.  These responsibilities apply equality to professor, researcher, and student.  Nearly all Wesleyan students mean to be honest, but some do not appreciate the extent to which plagiarism is dishonest.  It is important to recognize that plagiarism is theft, not of ideas, which are in a sense the property of everyone, but of the credit for originating ideas.  Plagiarism is also fraud—intentional deception in order to obtain what does not rightfully belong to one—for a student who plagiarizes attempts to get from the instructor an unearned grade and from the University an unearned degree.  And, of course, the plagiarist also affronts the rest of the student body.  Plagiarism, finally, is impersonation, since every piece of written work presents an image of its author.

For this last reason, plagiarism is particularly damaging to the plagiarist.  Just as an impersonator may get lost among assumed roles, a plagiarist will almost certainly have a false understanding of himself/herself, and of the education he/she is getting.  “Theft,” “fraud,” and “impersonation” are harsh words, but they accurately represent the moral status of plagiarism and the severe prevailing attitude toward it.  Students who use another’s ideas or language without giving credit violate the most basic agreement between students and the University; they attack the academic enterprise at its heart.  If students realize this, they will hardly plagiarize intentionally, unless they are very cynical indeed.  Unfortunately, the proper use of other people’s work is a delicate business, and students do sometimes plagiarize without intending to do so.  Moreover, education consists almost entirely in the proper use of other people’s ideas, so that what the University asks you to do bears a certain resemblance to what it asks you not to do.  Inevitably, and rightly, a large part of what any student can produce comes from books, from instructors, and from other students.  Nearly as bad as plagiarism would be a total refusal to be influenced by what other people have written or said, i.e., to participate in the education interchange.  Thus, it is necessary that all students familiarize themselves at the outset (if they are not already familiar) with the difference between legitimate and illegitimate borrowings.  Those who are uncertain should find the following essay helpful.

“DEFINITION OF PLAGIARISM”

By Harold C. Martin

The academic counterpart of the bank embezzler and of the manufacturer who mislabels his products is the plagiarist: the student or scholar who leads his reader to believe that what he is reading is the original work of the writer when it is not.  If it could be assumed that the distinction between plagiarism and honest use of sources is perfectly clear in everyone’s mind, there would be no need for the explanation that follows; merely the warning with which this definition concludes would be enough.  But it is apparent that sometimes men of good will draw the suspicion of guilt upon themselves (and, indeed, are guilty) simply because they are not aware of the illegitimacy of certain kinds of “borrowing” and of the procedures for correct identification of materials other than those gained through independent research and reflection.1

The spectrum is a wide one.  At one end there is a word-for-word copying of another’s writing without enclosing the copied passage in quotation marks and identifying it in a footnote, both of which are necessary.  (This includes, of course, the copying of all or any part of another student’s paper.)  It hardly seems possible that anyone of college age or more could do that without clear intent to deceive.  At the other end there is the almost casual slipping in of a particularly apt term, which one has come across in reading and which so admirably expresses one’s opinion that one is tempted to make it personal property.  Between these poles there are degrees and degrees, but they may be roughly placed in two groups.  Close to outright and blatant deceit—but more the result perhaps of laziness than of bad intent—is the patching together of random jottings made in the course of reading, generally without careful identification of their source, and then woven into the text, so that the result is a mosaic of other people’s ideas and words, the writer’s sole contribution being the cement to hold the pieces together.  Indicative of more effort and, for that reason, somewhat closer to honesty, though still dishonest, is the paraphrase, an abbreviated (and often skillfully prepared) restatement of someone else’s analysis or conclusion, without acknowledgement that another person’s text has been the basis for the recapitulation.

The examples given below should make clear the dishonest and the proper use of source material.  If instances occur which these examples do not seem to cover, conscience will in all likelihood be prepared to supply advice.

THE SOURCE2

The importance of the Second Treatise of Government printed in this volume is such that without it we should miss some of the familiar features of our own government.  It is safe to assert that the much criticized branch known as the Supreme Court obtained its being as a result of Locke’s insistence upon the separation of powers; and that the combination of many powers in the hands of the executive under the New Deal has still to encounter opposition because it is contrary to the principles enunciated therein, the effect of which is not spent, though the relationship may not be consciously traced.  Again we see the crystallizing force of Locke’s writing.  It renders explicit and adapts to the British politics of his day the trend and aim of writers from Languet and Bodin through Hooker and Grotius, to say nothing of the distant ancients, Aristotle and the Stoic school of natural law.  It sums up magisterially the arguments used through the ages to attack authority vested in a single individual, but it does so from the particular point of view engendered by the Revolution of 1688 and is in harmony with the British scene and mental climate of the growing bourgeoisie of that age.  Montesquieu and Rousseau, the framers of our own Declaration of Independence, and the statement (or should we say merchants and spectators?) who drew up the Constitution have re-echoed its claims for human liberty, for the separation of powers, for the sanctity of private property.  In the hands of these it has been the quarry of liberal doctrines; and that it has served the Socialist theory of property based on labor is its final proof of breadth of view.

________________________________________

1 From Harold C. Martin, Richard M. Ohman, and James H. Wheatly, the Logic and Rhetoric of Expansion, 3rd ed. New York: Hold, Rinehart and Winston, 1969.

2 Charles L. Sherman, Introduction to John Locke: “Treatise on Civil Government” and a “Letter Concerning Toleration.” New York: Appleton-Century Crofts, 1937.

  1. WORD-FOR-WORD PLAGIARIZING

It is not hard to see the importance of the Second Treatise of Government to our own democracy.  Without it we should miss some of the most familiar features of our own government.  It is safe to assert that the much criticized branch known as the Supreme Court obtained its being as a result of Locke’s insistence upon the separation of powers; and that the combination of many powers in the hands of the executive under the New Deal has still to encounter opposition because it is contrary to the principles enunciated therein, the effect of which is not spent, through the relationship may not be consciously traced.  The framers of our own Declaration of Independence and the statesmen who drew up the Constitution have re-echoed its claims for human liberty, for the separation of powers, for the sanctity of private property.  All these are marks of the influence of Locke’s Second Treatise on our own way of life.

      In this example, after composing half of a first sentence, the writer copies exactly what is in the original text, leaving out the center section of the paragraph and omitting the names of Montesquieu and Rousseau where he takes up the text again.  The last sentence is also the writer’s own.

      If the writer had enclosed all the copied text in quotation marks and had identified the source in a footnote, he would not have been liable to the charge of plagiarism; a reader might justifiably have felt, however, that the writer’s personal contribution to the discussion was not very significant.

B.THE MOSAIC

The crystallizing force of Locke’s writing may be seen in the effect his Second Treatise of Government had in shaping some of the familiar features of our own government.  That much criticized branch known as the Supreme Court and the combination of many powers in the hands of the executive under the New Deal are modern examples.  But even the foundations of our state the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution have re-echoed its claims for human liberty, for the separation of powers, for the sanctity of private property.  True, the influence of others is also marked in our Constitution from the trend and aim of writer like Languet and Bodin, Hooker and Grotius, to say nothing of Aristotle and the Stoic school of natural law; but the fundamental influence is Locke’s Treatise, the very quarry of liberal doctrines.

Note how the following phrases have been lifted out of the original text and moved into new patterns:

    crystallizing force of Locke’s writing

    some of the familiar features of our own government

    much criticized branch known as the Supreme Court

    combination of many powers in the hands of the executive under the New Deal

    have re-echoed its claims for human liberty…property

    from the trend and aim…Grotius

    to say nothing of Aristotle and…natural law

    quarry of liberal doctrines

As in the first example, there is really no way of legitimizing such a procedure.  To put every stolen phrase within quotation marks would produce an almost unreadable, and quite worthless, text.

C.THE PARAPHRASE

Paraphrase: Many fundamental aspects of our own government are

Original: Many familiar features of our own government are

 

P: apparent in the Second Treatise of Government. One can safely

O: apparent in the Second Treatise of Government.  It is safe to

 

P: say that the oft-censured Supreme Court really owes its existence

O: assert that the much criticized…court obtained its being as

 

P: once to the Lockeian demand that powers in government be kept

O: a result of Locke’s insistence upon the separation of powers;

 

P: separate; equally one can say that the allocation of varied

O: and that the combination of many powers

 

P: and widespread authority to the president during the era of

O: in the hands of the executive under the

 

P: the New Deal has still to encounter opposition because it is

O: New Deal has still to encounter opposition because it is

 

P: contrary to the principles enunciated therein…Once more it

O: contrary to the principles enunciated therein…Again we see

 

P: is possible to not the way in which Locke’s writing clarified existing opinion

O: the crystallizing force of Locke’s writing

The foregoing interlinear presentation shows clearly how the writer has simply traveled along with the original text, substituting approximately equivalent terms except where his understanding fails him, as it does with “crystalizing,” or where the ambiguity of the original is too great a tax on his ingenuity for him to proceed, as it is with “to encounter opposition…consciously traced” in the original.

    Such a procedure as the one shown in this example has its uses; for one thing, it is valuable for the student’s own understanding of the passage; and it may be valuable for the reader as well.  How, then, may it be properly used: The procedure is simple.  The writer might begin the second sentence with: “As Sherman notes in the introduction to his edition of the Treatise, one can safely say…” and conclude the paraphrase passage with a footnote giving the additional identification necessary.  Or he might indicate directly the exact nature of what he is doing, in this fashion: “To paraphrase Sherman’s comment…” and conclude that also with a footnote indicator.

    In point of fact this source does not particularly lend itself to honest paraphrase, with the exception of that one sentence which the paraphraser above copied without change except for abridgement.  The purpose of paraphrase should be to simplify or to throw a new and significant light on a text; it requires much skill if it is to be honestly used and should rarely be resorted to by the student except for the purpose, as was suggested above, of his personal enlightenment.

D.THE “APT” TERM

The Second Treatise of Government is a veritable quarry of liberal doctrines.  In it the crystallizing force of Locke’s writing is markedly apparent.  The cause of human liberty, the principle of separation of powers, and the inviolability of private property—all three, major dogmas of American constitutionalism—owe their presence in our Constitution in large part to the remarkable Treatise, which first appeared around 1685 and was destined to spark, within three years, a revolution in the land of its author’s birth and, ninety years later, another revolution against that land.

    Here the writer has not been able to resist the appropriation of two striking terms—“quarry of liberal doctrines” and “crystallizing force”; a perfectly proper use of the terms would have required only the addition of a phrase; the Second Treatise of Government is, to use Sherman’s suggestive expression, a “quarry of liberal doctrines.” In it the crystallizing force”—the term again is Sherman’s—of Locke’s writing is markedly apparent.

    Other phrases in the text above—“the cause of human liberty,” “the principle of the separation of powers,” “the inviolability of private property”—are clearly drawn directly from the original source but are so much matters in the public domain, so to speak, that no one could reasonably object to their re-use in this fashion.

    Since one of the principal aims of a college education is the development of intellectual honesty, it is obvious that plagiarism is a particularly serious offense, and the punishment for it is commensurately severe.  What a penalized student suffers can never really be known by anyone but himself; what the student who plagiarizes and “gets away with it” suffers is less public and probably less acute, but the corruptness of his act, the disloyalty and baseness it entails, must inevitably leave a mark on him as well as on the institution of which he is a member.

    Mr. Martin’s remarks cover the use of written sources.  A number of problems also arise that have to do with use of ideas picked up in the classroom or in conversations,  In general, it is not necessary to give credit to Professor A for his ideas in a paper submitted to him; but a paper submitted to Professor B should acknowledge Profess A’ influence.  Discussion with other students will produce understanding of a general sort that need not be traced to its origin, but whenever discussion contributes something specific to the writing of a paper that contribution should be noted.  In ambiguous cases, it is best to err on the side of being overscrupulous.  Finally, it is legitimate to have a friend read a draft of a paper and comment on its clarity, logic, or accuracy.  Such assistance should be acknowledged; and in no case should the assistance extend to rewriting.

    It is impossible, in a brief treatment of this sort, to anticipate every problem that can arise in the use of sources.  But the principle is clear: Always give credit for ideas and phrasings that to not originate with you, except when they are commonplace or when they are so familiar in the context of a given course tht the instructor could not mistake your intention.  This is a rigorous principle, rigorously applied at Wesleyan.  It is also an honorable one, and adherence to it is one of the satisfactions of a mature student who is getting an honest education.