Honor System

The Honor System

“I pledge my honor that on this examination I have neither given nor received assistance not explicitly approved by the professor and that I have seen no dishonest work.”

Honor System Policy

The honor system has been in effect at St. Olaf since 1911. We at St. Olaf are proud of this system. It is the responsibility of each student and faculty member to keep this system working and effective.

  1. All tests, quizzes or examinations of any kind are taken under the honor system. If the nature of the test is such that the professor must remain in the classroom, each student is still on his/her honor and the honor system is still in effect.
  2. The honor system is considered violated when information which results in or could result in an unfair advantage for one or more students is given or received before, during or after a test.

Code of Test Etiquette

The purpose of the Code of Test Etiquette is to create the best possible atmosphere for testing and avoid all possible suspicion.

During an examination, students:

  • Are required to leave all books and other aids in an inaccessible spot (exception: open-book tests);
  • Are required to leave all electronic devices not explicitly approved by the professor in an inaccessible spot;
  • May not leave the room and return to the test without express permission;
  • Are not allowed to talk to each other;
  • Should try to ensure that their line of sight does not cause someone to suspect them of cheating.

Failure to abide by the code of test etiquette can result in disciplinary action.

Honor Council Practices and Procedures

  1. Each time a student leaves his/her pledge unsigned and checks a box indicating that they have intentionally left the pledge unsigned, he/she is contacted by a member of the Honor Council. If the pledge was purposely left unsigned, the student in question is asked to indicate the nature of his/her suspicions. Such reports, as well as all subsequent exchanges of information before, during and after a case, are to be held in strict confidence by all parties involved.
  2. Unsigned, unchecked pledges may be investigated by the professor or immediately given to the honor council via the Dean of Students office. If the professor chooses, a discrete contact with the student may be made to ascertain whether the absence of a signature is intentional or an oversight. If an oversight, the professor may proceed as though the pledge were signed. If the absence of signature is intentional, the professor must immediately turn the exam over to the honor council. The professor’s investigation is limited to ascertaining whether the student intended to sign the pledge. The professor should not investigate the nature of any possible honor code violation.
  3. A suspected violation can be reported by means other than an unsigned pledge. A faculty member, or a student not in a position to indicate his/her suspicions in this way, may file a direct report to the Honor Council at the Office of the Dean of Students.
  4. When a violation is suspected, the Honor Council gathers all relevant information. The primary witness is called to a hearing to explain his/her suspicions to the full council. Subsequent parties may be called on to provide additional information about the classroom situation. The accused is also called in and questioned.
  5. A student implicated in a possible violation of the honor code is considered innocent until proven otherwise. At the same time, a confession by the implicated student is not necessary for a finding of responsibility if sufficient evidence has been presented to the council.
  6. Since a violation of the honor system is considered very serious, there is no warning for a first offense. Penalties are assessed according to the circumstances of the individual case and are more severe in instances of multiple violations. Standard penalties vary from an F or a zero on the test in which the violation occurred to failure in the course. In particularly egregious cases, the Honor Council may recommend to the dean of students office that a student be suspended or expelled; the final responsibility for such decisions rests with the administration of the college.  Under certain circumstances, the dean of students office may recommend that a student found to be responsible receive counseling.
  7. All students found responsible for an honor system violation are required to have a talk with the president or dean of the college. This is seen not as a punishment but as an opportunity for the student to air his/her feelings on the matter.
  8. A student who is assessed a penalty of failure in the course is not permitted to drop the course in question.
  9. No permanent record of an honor system violation is made in the student’s file.

Faculty Responsibilities

  1. Every examination is given under the honor system. This includes all short quizzes and lab tests. If it is necessary for the professor to remain in the room during the test, he/she should explain to his/her students that he/she is acting as an administrator and not as a proctor.
  2. The Honor Council strongly recommends that the entire printed pledge, and not just the word ‘pledge,’ be on the last page of examination papers when the exam is handed out. There also must be the phrase ‘I have intentionally not signed the pledge. __ (check only if appropriate.)’
  3. It is the responsibility of the professor to remind students verbally of the pledge before an examination. A visual reminder should be placed at the front of the room, as well.
  4. If the professor asks the students to spread out during an exam, the council recommends that he/she make it clear that the reason is to remove cause for suspicion.
  5. It is suggested that a blank sheet of paper be placed on top of lab tests.
  6. It is the professor’s responsibility to check for unsigned pledges immediately after an examination. If the pledge is not signed, the professor may discretely and confidentially ask the student if the missing signature was an oversight. If the professor chooses not to make inquiries, the exam must be treated as if the failure to sign the pledge was intentional.
  7. Tests with unsigned pledges should be brought by the professor to the Office of the Dean of Students as soon as possible. It is imperative that exams be delivered only by the professor and not sent via campus mail or handled by students.
  8. Under no circumstances is the professor to return tests when some are still out due to unsigned pledges.
  9. Take-home examinations may be given under the condition that regulations for what may or may not be used on the exam are explicitly stated on the test form. Professors are encouraged to require that students hand in all of their work along with their exams.
  10. Faculty members are encouraged to keep a seating chart or practice some other method designed to recognize the location of each student during a test.
  11. In most cases a student can plan in advance to take an examination with the rest of his/her class. The council strongly feels that make-up tests should not be given unless absolutely necessary, as in the case of real illness. The council recommends that such make-up tests be given at a specific time and place and that they not be distributed to students via P.O. boxes.

Any questions regarding the honor system should be directed to the honor council president, who can be contacted through the dean of students office.