Frequently Asked Questions

Understanding Middlebury's Honor Code means more than adhering to the policy; it means embracing the values of integrity, honesty and responsibility that form its foundation. Please review the questions and answers below to learn more about how the Honor Code functions in Middlebury's intellectual community.

What is the basic premise of the honor code?

There is a basic quid pro quo, or “this for that” arrangement at the heart of Middlebury’s honor code. Faculty agree that they will support an intellectual environment of trust and respect for students by giving unproctored exams in which they are available nearby to answer questions, but do not hover over students to monitor potential cheaters. Students, in exchange, agree to two things: 1) that you yourselves will not cheat, plagiarize, or duplicate work on separate assignments, and 2) that you will not tolerate these behaviors in other students and will take action if you become aware of other students’ honor code violations. For the honor code to succeed, it is essential that all three commitments—one from the faculty, two from the students—be upheld. If they are not, professors do have permission to proctor exams if they suspect dishonesty.

Why should I care if other students cheat? They’re only hurting themselves

Not true. The dishonesty of even a small group of students has a direct impact on Middlebury’s entire academic community in several ways. First, professors are human: when a student they trust and respect violates that trust, it can erode their confidence in the integrity of the entire class, even those students who may be conducting themselves honorably. As a result, professors become more limited in the kinds of assignments they offer. Rather than teaching in the most creative and effective ways, they must develop “cheat-proof” assignments that may be less interesting and valuable ways to explore the material. Additionally, many professors use an informal curve to grade their assignments. That is, they review each assignment, then determine which are the best, and use those top assignments to set the grading scale for the class. Students whose dishonestly produced work is deemed to be the best thereby have a direct negative impact on the grades of their fellow students. Finally, your signature on the honor code means that you have made a personal commitment to abide by this policy, which requires you to hold your peers accountable for abiding by it as well—in essence, to care.  

Who “owns” the honor code? Is this something the faculty and administration are imposing on students because they don’t trust us?

Middlebury’s honor code was initiated and developed by students, and its constitution can only be amended by students.

If I don’t understand citation practices, is this my fault? Isn’t it the obligation of the professor or the College to teach me?

Learning the rules of scholarship is a shared responsibility. It is the responsibility of the faculty to make their expectations clear, including citation style requirements; to communicate them to their students; and to clarify their policies as needed. It is the responsibility of students to take the initiative to learn professors’ expectations, to adhere to them, and to seek clarification if you are confused.

I don’t feel confident that I understand standard citation practices. What should I do?

Visit the Center for Teaching, Learning and Research (CTLR), located in Library Suite 225. A member of the staff and/or a librarian can meet with you individually to clarify the citation process and can direct you to additional on-line citation resources, including this one: http://sp.middlebury.edu/subjects/guide.php?subject=style. See the “Writing and Plagiarism” section in particular.

Why do citation styles differ for different departments? Why can’t we just have one citation style for the whole College?

Because citation policies are different for different fields of scholarship, not just for papers, but for labs, language translation, artistic work, computer programming, etc. Your professors will specify their preferred citation style(s).

What if I mess up a citation by mistake? Will I be accused of violating the honor code?

The cases that result in honor code violation charges are egregious: not one or two incorrect citations, but a clear misattribution of sources, consistent failure to note direct quotations, obvious plagiarism or cheating, submission of duplicate work, or dishonesty. Charges don’t result from nitpicky professors but from significant violations, which includes unacceptable degrees of sloppiness.

Does the honor code mean I can’t study with a friend, ask someone to proofread a paper, work with a tutor, or collaborate in other ways?

Each professor has her or his own requirements regarding the permissibility of note sharing, proofing, using tutors, sharing group-generated lab data, and other collaborative work. Some professors explicitly encourage group work, peer review, or using tutors; others expect that all work will be completed with no outside help. Professors are strongly encouraged to provide very specific information on their syllabi indicating how the honor code should be applied to their particular assignments. If you are ever in doubt about whether an action is permissible, ask your professor.

Is it ok for me to share drafts of my work with my parents?

In general, it is not. On this topic, nationally recognized ethicist Randy Cohen once observed on National Public Radio that “the purpose of college is to become an educated person.” He went on to note that although some kinds of parental input—rich discussions about topics, for example—do not compromise this goal, others, such as proofreading for grammar or accuracy, do (March 11, 2007, NPR). It is best to check with your professor before sharing assignments with parents to make sure you are clear on what kind of input is permitted. There is also an implicit assumption that all students at Middlebury have access to the same educational resources when they complete an assignment. If some students have highly knowledgeable parents providing tutoring available only to them, this violates a community principle of fundamental fairness.