Crafting the Willamette Ethic
By Hayley Hill ‘13
“You are expected to act in accordance to the Willamette code of ethics.”
This phrase, or something like it, concludes many standard class syllabi handed out to Willamette students each term. The problem is that there isn’t one specific Willamette code of ethics to which to refer.
A new honor committee, whose members comprise a cross-section of campus groups, arose from student demand last year to produce a tangible description of the code and a complementary implementation and enforcement system. Matthew Bateman ’14 leads the committee, which is working to isolate the tie that binds Willamette’s many curricular options into an ethically grounded system of education.
If the committee succeeds in implementing a new code and an enforcement body within the year, the impact will be noticeable. “We don’t have anything like this at WU,” says David Douglass, dean of campus life.
Many other universities have used ethics codes and enforcement boards successfully. Willamette’s committee has looked at several for inspiration, including Reed College, Oberlin College and the University of Virginia.
According to Tej Reddy ’12, president of the Associated Students of Willamette University (ASWU), this system will help Willamette articulate its academic character among its regional peers. It will also say something about the quality of students who make up the community.
“If you’re applying to Willamette, it’s saying that you’re applying to a high-caliber student body,” Reddy says. “It changes the public character of the university.”
The actual Willamette ethic document will be available to students and printed in syllabi, though the method by which students will agree to this standard is still under debate. Alongside the document, the enforcement body will take up issues of academic integrity as they arise, and sitting members will suggest disciplinary action if needed — even though ultimate authority will still rest with the professor involved.
While the ethic will provide an umbrella definition for what honorable academic conduct means for Willamette students, Don Negri, associate dean and professor of economics, stresses that it should cover more than simple plagiarism and cheating — neither of which are overwhelming problems today. “The students’ actions in a classroom are only part of how they demonstrate integrity,” he says. “Having members of the student body sit on the council helps to assess what Willamette students define as ‘integrity,’ and it encourages them to monitor each other’s actions.”
Reddy agrees. “Having the conversation with your peers — rather than a nameless mediator — makes it easier to take responsibility.”
Douglass and Bateman have said the ethic must be perceived as a positive affirmation of collective goals, rather than a punitive measure. “The genius of the ethic is that it identifies a set of values already here,” Douglass says. “It shows that these are positive values to which the members of the Willamette community adhere.”
Bateman shares this view. “The ethic validates and verbalizes what the student body has demonstrated is important to them, and it sets up a more visible framework to bolster an existing aspect of campus culture.”
Hayley Hill ’13 is an English major in the College of Liberal Arts.
The Willamette Ethic: The Honor Code of Willamette University
We the students, recognizing a need for student responsibility in the area of moral and academic growth, do establish this honor code to secure the tradition of academic richness and rigor deserved by Willamette University.
We will hold ourselves to the highest standards of moral and academic excellence. We will proudly submit only our original work. We will never attempt to give ourselves or others an unfair advantage. We will commit to upholding our honor and the value of our work. Through this commitment we will serve as an example to our peers.
A partnership amongst students and faculty is central to the creation of ideas and the growth of individuals and community. The Willamette Ethic establishes that trust is the cornerstone of this partnership. The faculty should expect that we students will hold ourselves accountable in order to prevent dishonesty. Together we will pursue an excellence unattainable alone
This honor code enables students to take responsibility for their moral growth. As a student body we bear the burden of keeping each other accountable to the moral excellence we expect of ourselves. If there is an alleged violation of the honor code and internal resolutions are unsuccessful, the issue should be referred to the Honor Council. The Honor Council will have authority to investigate the claim, hear the student’s defense and render a decision on the matter.