"A Matter of Honor": Update

August 1, 2007

In 2001, Duke Magazine explored notions of academic integrity in an article that highlighted the results of a 2000 Center for Academic Integrity student survey, which found that a significant proportion of students engaged in behavior that could, under many definitions, fall within the realm of cheating.

A Matter of Honor

"Probably the biggest survey surprise," the story said, "came in attitudes toward cheating." For instance, only 24 percent of respondents considered unauthorized collaboration a serious form of cheating. Missy Walker '03, then chair of the student-run Honor Council, attributed those opinions, in part, to an "ambiguity in faculty expectations," meaning faculty members were not specific enough in defining the boundaries of acceptable collaboration.

Definitions of cheating took the spotlight again at Duke this April, when the Fuqua School of Business announced that its judicial board had convicted thirty-four first-year students in the M.B.A. program of violating the school's honor code. Early reports suggested that unauthorized collaboration had taken place on a single take-home examination, though a statement by Douglas T. Breeden, the school's dean, suggested that cheating may also have occurred on other assignments.

The board ruled that nine of the students should be expelled; fifteen suspended for a year and given a
failing grade in the course; nine given a failing grade in the course; and one a failing grade on the exam only. Twenty-four students filed appeals with the school, but after a two-week review of the cases, the appeals committee upheld the original convictions and penalties.

During the appeals process, several convicted students and their lawyers raised concerns that international students from Asia were overrepresented among those tried for cheating. Breeden responded by noting that the students charged "come from three continents and represent both foreign and domestic students."