At Yonsei University’s matriculation ceremony on Feb. 24, incoming freshmen were required to sign the “Student Honor Declaration.” Honor codes similar to that of Yonsei are currently emerging in Korean universities as a new way to combat old academic problems such as plagiarism and cheating.
Though the contents vary from place to place, an honor code expresses the basic principles an individual should abide by to keep the honor of an assembly. In an academic context, the code is a vow of disengagement of any activity that may damage the university’s academic integrity. The honor code was first adopted in 1840 at the University of Virginia, then spread to Harvard and Stanford University and eventually throughout the entire U.S. The autonomous integrity upheld by the students helped maintain and create a more prestigious image of the university. Up until last year, military academies and the Handong Global University in Gyeongbuk were the only Korean universities with honor codes.
However, this year, more Korean universities, including Seoul National University (SNU), are incorporating the academic honor code. The College of Natural Sciences of SNU studied honor code policies last year, and decided to introduce one to the Class of 2017 during its freshmen orientation. The students wrote the given honor code by hand and sealed it with a signature, vowing to preserve academic integrity.
“This is only the first year of its implementation, but we expect the honor code to expand within SNU,” said the director of College of Natural Sciences.
Compared to SNU, Yonsei University introduced its honor code to the entire Class of 2017. The code reads as follows: “I will participate in on-campus and academic life with a sincere and honest attitude. I will be considerate of social minorities and aim for gender equality, etc.” This contains articles concerning academics, student life and social values.
At Korea University, where the honor code was established in 2015, it is only applied when students take unsupervised tests. Before the students take the test, they handwrite the code and sign it as a declaration that they will not take advantage of the test’s lack of supervision.
“Though the code exists, I have not yet experienced it,” said an Economics student at Korea University. “I don’t think it is a good idea to leave students unsupervised since for many, the urge to get better grades is greater than that of maintaining academic integrity.”
The current issue with Korea University’s honor code is that it is more merly encouraged rather than actually implemented. The decision to conduct an unsupervised test is up to the professor, and not many choose to do so. Professors who do not choose to utilize the honor code doubt its effectiveness in alleviating misconduct.
Although diverse opinions have been expressed concerning the effectiveness of the honor code, this new approach is expected to further encourage students to maintain their academic integrity.
“We hope to encourage and help students maintain the conscience and honor of a scholar,” said the director of SNU College of Natural Sciences.