Class Integrity Statement

While Physics 1050 is required to operate under the University of Virginia Honor Code, the Community of Trust that code is supposed to engender is non-existent. Too few students are willing to take the responsibility necessary to maintain a Community of Trust and it has collapsed. With the dissolution of the Community of Trust, the UVa Honor System has become irrelevant; it lives on out of tradition, pride, and apathy, but it plays no significant role in maintaining academic integrity at UVa.To maintain the integrity of my class, a matter of utmost importance to me as an educator and scientist, I am therefore compelled to withdraw many of the privileges that would be accorded students if there were a functional Community of Trust.

At present, those withdrawn privileges include:
  1. Exam questions appear in different orders on different copies of the exam and all examinations are proctored. [Instituted October 1993]
    Explanation: Several students who took their exams in the classrooms copied answers from their neighbors or friends. They subsequently submitted those exams as pledged work and thus violated the Honor Code. To discourage future misbehavior of this sort, I make the exam packets as visually different as possible and introduce proctors into the classrooms to help students stay focused on their own work alone.
  2. Students may not take exams anywhere except in the classrooms themselves. [Instituted January 1994]
    Explanation: Several students who took their exam booklets out of the classrooms prior to this change then proceeded to obtain aid from other students. They subsequently submitted their exam booklets as pledged work, thereby violating the UVa Honor Code. In recognition of this repeated misbehavior and of the inability of some small segment of the student body to avoid such problems, I have been forced to limit exam-taking to the classrooms themselves.
  3. Late final exams are given only as oral exams. [Instituted May 1994]
    Explanation: Several students who took their final exams late, after the rest of the class had completed the exam and, in some cases, after solutions had been posted, submitted as their own pledged work answers that had been obtained from other students, friends, or the posted solutions. These actions constituted a violation of the UVa Honor Code. To ensure fairness within the class and to avoid such misbehavior in the future, the written final exam is given only once—during the officially designated final exam period. Late final exams are conducted as one-hour oral interviews.
  4. Exams are checked carefully for cheating. [Instituted April 2001]
    Explanation: A number of students who completed exams were later found to have submitted, as their own pledged work, material that was actually done by someone else. Because such unethical submissions violate the Honor Code, they are inconsistent with the Community of Trust and make it more difficult to take UVa students at their word. To discourage such misbehavior, I now make a thorough check of all pledged work, both during the semester itself and on a continuing basis thereafter.
  5. I will personally notify investigated students immediately after initiating an honor investigation of their work. [Instituted April 2003]
    Explanation: The Honor Committee's policy is to wait until the last possible moment before notifying a student of an honor investigation. That policy stems from a desire not to foreclose the possibility of a conscientious retraction until the moment a student is interviewed and from a hope that keeping the interview secret until it begins will prevent investigated students from fabricating testimony. Unfortunately, the main effect of delayed notification (often lasting for months) is to allow the investigated student to learn of the investigation via leaks and subsequently tender a coerced conscientious retraction of questionable validity. To eliminate the possibility of these problematic conscientious retractions, I notify investigated students myself immediately after initiating the investigations.
Proactive steps I am taking to encourage integrity in this class:
  1. I offer explicit educational goals for every assignment, including examinations.
    Explanation: Virtually every act of cheating that has occurred in my class has involved a student trying to obtain a credential without putting in the requisite effort. Most often, the student wanted a high grade for lackluster, careless, or nonexistent work. Although I recognize the importance of grades as both short-term work incentives and approximate measures of performance, grades are not the central purpose of the class. The class and its assignments are about education and all that really counts is the understanding and experience that each student retains once the semester is over. If a student has no hope of learning anything valuable while completing an assignment, that student may feel justified in taking an unethical shortcut around it. While I cannot condone or approve of such shortcuts, regardless of a student's motivations, I can help to alleviate the pressure to take them. By stating my own educational goals for each assignment, I hope to make it clear to the students that the assignments are more than just grade-production mechanisms.
  2. I act on apparent cheating.
    Explanation: Nothing discourages honest students more than knowing that others around them are getting away with cheating. While an honest student can dismiss a case or two of undetected or unpunished cheating, as the extent of unchallenged cheating increases, so does the anguish among the honest. Making ethical behavior a way of life is an essential component of education.