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The Honor Code

imageThe honor code is proudly displayed in the library
09/26/13 -  

Recently, a TIME magazine article discussed the amount of cheating taking place at Harvard University. This gave us an opportunity to reflect upon a tradition at Queens University of Charlotte that has stood the test of time - our honor code. It is posted on the walls of buildings and put into daily practice by students. It is a part of our special culture.

In "honor" of our honor code, following is an excerpt of a speech delivered recently by Queens' Student Government President Joseph A. Vaughn during the university's Fall Convocation ceremony.

A Different Perspective on Cheating

Raise your hand if you've read and signed the Queens Honor Code? My hope is that all of you raised your hands. If you didn't, well, I'll talk with you later...

Of all the unique traditions at Queens, the Honor Code, and particularly the academic portion of the Honor Code, is perhaps the most remarkable. As students we may not realize just how extraordinary our Academic Honor Code is and what it represents for our university and ourselves.

The Honor Code does more than tell us not to cheat or hold our peers accountable if they cheat. It's a pledge for "truthfulness and absolute honesty in the performance of all academic work" that cannot be taken lightly.

It says something about our journey as students, from our first semesters as freshmen to our final semesters as seniors. As I address you all today, I'd like to share my perspective on what I think that is.

What does it mean to cheat?  And why does a student cheat rather than admitting ignorance or failure?  Cheating isn't just the acceptance of not knowing the answer to a question. It's a personal affirmation of indifference to the answer.  In other words, a student cheats when he or she doesn't know the answer to a question AND doesn't care to know the answer. A cheater, therefore, is a person who doesn't care about his or her own education.

Think back to your high school exam-taking experiences...  proctors floating around the room, constantly peering over you as you work, checking to make sure you haven't tattooed the answers to your right forearm. 

Now take a memory leap to your first exam at Queens.  Here's what I remember about my first accounting exam: 

Our professor walked in with around 20 nicely stapled books in her hand.  She passed them out, answered our preliminary questions, told us when to begin and then promptly left the room. She came back to check on us every so often, but she didn't sit at the front acting like the proctors I remembered from high school.

So how could a Queens professor drop an exam and leave the room with absolute faith that none of her students would break under the tension and cheat? Two reasons. First, she knew she had taught us well and that we were smart enough to answer every question correctly if we'd studied.

Second, she had faith that students at Queens have such a respect for, and understanding of, the value of their educations that they'll study as hard as they can, answer each question to the best of their abilities, and admit failure or plain ignorance before they'd ever consider cheating on their exams.

The Queens Honor Code is personified by all of us. It means nothing without us, without our pledge to uphold it. Without our commitment, it would just be another document.  We represent a student body that is special in the world of education, one that defends the purpose of education and declares its incontestable value in our world.

When you accepted Queens University as your guide through higher education (and when, in less than a year you seniors will accept Queens as your beloved alma mater) you declared yourselves life-long learners.

I am proud to serve such a student body, and wish all of you the best of luck in the upcoming school year.

--Joseph A. Vaughn is a junior at Queens, a Byrum Scholar and an accounting major currently working as a finance intern at Siemens. 

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