Honor System needs to be overhauled,
Bloomfield tells Faculty Senate
Senate to study system and issue report in spring
by Rebecca Arrington
took too much of my life. It was two years that came out
of my research, my writing and my family, not in that order.
And there was no recognition for it.
Louis A. Bloomfield
Honor System is seriously flawed and needs an overhaul, physics
professor Louis A. Bloomfield told his Faculty Senate colleagues
at its Oct. 14 meeting.
who initiated 158 honor cases in April 2001 stemming from term
paper irregularities in his How Things Work course,
said the faculty should stop being the police of the system and
demand that the students assume responsibility for a community
is weighing the role of the faculty in the Honor System, a student-run
program that mandates immediate expulsion for those found guilty
of intentional cheating, lying and stealing.
E. Davis, chairman of the Faculty Senate, said the issue will
be examined over the next year by the Faculty Senates Academic
Affairs Committee. After meeting with students on the Honor Committee
and faculty honor advisers, the committee will develop recommendations.
Davis said he expects to report to the Faculty Senate in the spring.
are some things we can do, such as setting up a faculty support
structure, which would have resources and information for faculty
members, Davis said. The students have people they
can go to on legal issues.
ultimate goal is having an Honor System in which all faculty
are full participants and partners, Davis added in a follow-up
interview. Faculty and students need to address barriers that
discourage faculty participation.
said that in the ideal system, students would live honorable lives
and enforce the system themselves. But the students want the respect
without the responsibility. The community of trust is too
much work [for the students], he said.
proof, he cited two contemporary changes: permitting faculty to
initiate violation cases, and dropping the non-toleration clause,
which required students aware of honor violations to report them.We
should never have accepted that, he said.
believes that the onus for reporting cases has fallen primarily
to faculty. Information provided by the Honor Committee bears
that out. Over a three-year period, faculty-reported cases averaged
80 percent and ranged from 64 percent in 2000-01 to 90 percent
was the year Bloomfield made international news with his computer
program that spotted similarities in student papers. Of 158 cases
that came from his complaints, 28 students left the University
admitting guilt before their cases came to trial and 20 others
were found guilty at trial, including three graduates whose degrees
he recounted details from his ordeal, Bloomfield asked the faculty
members not to consider it his story but to look at it through
the eyes of a junior faculty member, facing an apparent honors
infraction for the first time.
members are reluctant to file cases because they are a time
sink, Bloomfield said. There is no guarantee of the outcome,
the faculty member has no support staff, gets no reimbursement
for expenses and there is a tremendous sense of personal responsibility,
especially for a guilty verdict. He said faculty members face
being put on trial themselves, threatened with lawsuits and committing
said while he received moral support from faculty, students, alumni
and community members, he got no support from the administration.
is hard to go through something like this and hear nothing from
the administration, he said.
John T. Casteen III, who attended the Faculty Senate meeting,
said since the process is adversarial and the accused student
is innocent until proven guilty, the administration has been advised
by its legal counsel not to demonstrate support for either side
in the process.
does not seem to be a general understanding of the hazards for
the faculty in the system, Casteen said, adding that the Honor
System seemed stronger when students alone brought the charges,
because then the accuser was subject to the same standards as
reality of the Honor System, Bloomfield said, is that while most
students are honest, they do not see it as a social contract.
They do not want to turn in friends, be viewed by their peers
as a rat or feel they have wrecked someones life.
system is student-run the way U.Va. is state-funded, Bloomfield
said, believing that the system is now driven primarily by faculty-initiated
cases. But faculty avoid the Honor System because of the hassles
involved with it, he said.
Bloomfield called for students to introduce more sanctions besides
expulsion, saying that is too drastic and discourages students
from enforcing the system. The single sanction also discourages
plea bargaining. Penalties, he said, should be expanded to allow
for rehabilitation and maybe feature community service or a one-semester
Mignerey, chairman of the Honor Committee, who also attended the
Faculty Senate meeting, said students have to vote on changes
in the Honor System and, in past votes, the majority has supported
the single sanction.
P. Eramo, special assistant to the Honor Committee, said there
is a referendum on the single sanction about every five years,
with 60 to 70 percent approval among students who vote. In spring
2002, students rejected a proposal to allow an informed
retraction, which would have functioned like a plea bargain.
said in a follow-up interview that other schools around the country
are dealing with the same issues, even with honor systems that
do not have the single sanction and are not student-run.Many
of the issues that the Faculty Senate has identified, the Honor
Committee also recognizes. Through a partnership we can work to
resolve or at lease alleviate the problems, he said.
spoke passionately in support of the Honor System when the cases
were making headlines. Its the cornerstone of a living
contract between the students of the University and the University
community as a whole, he told students in August 2001, according
to a report in the Daily Progress. In October 2001, he told CNN,
It really was my duty at that point to investigate, to try
to support the Honor System here.
after the recent Faculty Senate meeting, Bloomfield said if he
was again confronted with similar circumstances of academic dishonesty,
he would not pursue an honor case.
took too much of my life, he said. It was two years
that came out of my research, my writing and my family, not in
that order. And there was no recognition for it. It was a total
his experience, Bloomfield said he believes in the principles
of an Honor System that works to provide the best education and
would love to have an Honor System, Bloomfield said The
students should fix it.