Students' Experiences with the Georgetown Honor System

Following are papers written by students describing their experiences with being found in violation of the Honor System and what they have learned from the process. They were willing for these papers to be posted in the hopes that others may learn from their experiences. Details have been deleted to protect these students’ identities.

Student 1

I have learned a lot during my four years here at Georgetown,but perhaps the most valuable lesson came from my experience with the honor council. When my professor asked me about the situation I was not sure what to do. I could have lied further and perhaps gotten away with it, but I decided not to. I immediately confessed to looking at a classmate’s exam.

My classmate and I were given a hearing and I received a letter of censure. After the hearing I met with the dean of the Business School and spoke with him at length. This conversation had a great impact on me and it was then that I decided that I wanted to do something to make this a positive experience. I feel that I have now accomplished that.

For the past year and a half I have been involved with the Honor Council. During my junior year I met several times with the student chair and faculty chair of the Honor Council to discuss my ideas regarding the Council and the sanction reduction proposal. As an MSB student advisor I tried to make my three freshman international student advisees aware of the Honor Code at Georgetown. In my senior year I became a member of the Honor Council and have since been involved with various committees, including the Student Advocacy Committee and the Sanction Reduction Committee. As a member of the latter, I was involved in the preparation and presentation of the Sanction Reduction Seminar, offered for the first time this semester.

Participating in the Sanction Reduction Seminar was an excellent experience. I led the discussion in which the students shared their experiences with the Honor Council and it was beneficial to hear what others had learned from their similar experiences and a comfort to be able to discuss my own situation.

I believe that this experience has prepared me for the business world as no class could have. As the hugely publicized Enron case illustrates, success without ethics is not true success. While I was not an inherently dishonest or conniving person even before this occurred, my stress got the better of me during that exam. I did not think before I acted. There was no reason for me to act as I did, if I had thought about it rationally I would have realized that my actions would hurt me more than help. I now realize that it is important to carefully evaluate situations, and avoid rash decisions. Stress is apart of life and will continue to occur both in my career and personal life. Being a person with strong values and a high level of integrity is essential to me. This experience – my violation, and more importantly being part of the Honor Council – will ensure that I am more careful in the future to adhere to my values.

In addition, being on the Honor Council has allowed me to help other people who have been in the same situation. Often students cheat or plagiarize under stress and due to poor time management, although there are some that use these method to take them through college. I hope that I have been able to help some of these individuals to realize that there is a better way to do things and help them as I was helped.

Student 2

As I sit here thinking about how I might start this essay, the mix of emotions that is linked to my experience with the Honor Council floods me. The butterflies in my stomach remind me that I will always feel a sense of shame with regard to my violation of the honor code last spring semester. I also feel the disappointment and anger of a person who faltered, but considers herself to be an honorable and devoted student. Most importantly though, seven months after the implementation of my sanction reduction program, I feel accomplished and confident. Accomplished in the sense that I was able to address and take responsibility for those issues that led up to the violation.Confident in the sense that I have resolved those issues and am sure I will never again find myself in a similar situation.

When I failed to cite several lines in a response paper,though not my intent, I committed plagiarism. At the time, extremely high levels of stress, poor coping mechanisms, and a lack of organization led to the carelessness in my citations. People have told me that I spread myself too thin. I am a major, double minor, and very involved in campus organizations. I also had a part time job during the semester of the violation, and I felt as though my life was in fast forward. I was always on the go; thinking about what it was I had to do next without a moment to spare, and arriving at the place I was going to, a moment too late. Identifying the issues that led up to the violation was not difficult because they were so salient in my everyday life. Creating a plan that would speak directly to those issues and actually changing my way of life in order to overcome them, was the challenge.

My intense stress levels and lack of organization were the two main issues I wanted to tackle in my sanction reduction plan. I chose to attend a time management session, which changed my life in a significant way. I also dedicated several of my psychotherapy sessions to working on alternative coping strategies for stress. Lastly, I attended an Honor Council seminar in which students were able to share their similar experiences and in a sense, bring closure to them.

Learning Services at the Georgetown counseling center paired me up with an excellent time management coach. She spent about an hour and a half with me, and the techniques I walked away with have proven to be invaluable. We went over the PAR system, which stands for prepare ahead, attend actively, and review daily. In order to prepare ahead, I bought a large wall calender and marked all the dates for tests,quizzes, and other big events. In this way, I am able to see the entire month in front of me and better able to anticipate when I should start things. We also worked on a weekly schedule with the goal of maximizing every hour in the day. Each day of the week I wake up at a consistent time and hours are blocked for classes, studying, meals, exercise,personal time, and a good night’s sleep. Studying blocks are designed to review material from whichever classes I have that day (review daily), since the closer to any event that you review, the more you retain. Lastly, we discussed the importance of a daily “to do” list in addition to the weekly schedule. This list includes errands and events that change on a daily basis.

Since I started practicing the strategies that I learned in the time management session, I have truly become a more organized person with lower stress levels. I find that assignments and studying are no longer left to the last minute, I arrive at appointments early instead of late, and I actually have some personal time to myself.

During my psychotherapy sessions, I discovered a tendency to compartmentalize feelings and thoughts, especially under stressful conditions. In other words, in the case of writing a paper under pressure with a disorganized set of notes, I would ignore the possibility that I could be incorporating notes that I wrote from another source without citing them. In therapy I worked on learning how to step away from these types of situations, and take a look at the whole picture. Furthermore, under serious time constraints, different options such as approaching a professor and asking for an extension were discussed. It is important that student recognize that most professors are actually more approachable and reasonable than they might seem. Since the therapy sessions, I have noticed a marked difference in my approach to stressful situations in both my academic and personal lives.

The last element in my sanction reduction plan, the honor council seminar, was a fitting one. By this point I had already confronted (and I continue to conquer each day) those issues that I felt led up to my honor code violation. The seminar allowed a group of students who shared similar experiences to reflect on these issues and discuss what has changed since the implementation of our plans. It was conducted informally among students and by students, which promoted a forum for candid exchanges. Most of us felt that we were treated fairly throughout the trial process. However, we suggested that the time period between when a student is first notified of a possible violation and his or her trial be as short as is possible. Ultimately, it was encouraging to see other students like myself who never would have imagined facing charges of academic dishonesty, but who in fact, did.We all seemed to agree that despite the difficult nature of the circumstances, we grew in one form or another from our experiences.

In addition, several methods of prevention against future incidents of academic dishonesty within the Georgetown community were discussed. It is important to recognize that even serious students can create situations for themselves in which it is more likely that they will commit a violation. Without diminishing the responsibility for ones actions, preventing risk factors like high stress and poor organization is crucial to maintaining the integrity among it’s students, that Georgetown University so avidly ascribes to. In my opinion, one of the most important methods of prevention is exposure of students to the helping resources available at Georgetown. For instance, the writing center and the time management sessions offered by learning services can significantly reduce the stress and disorganization that so many college students face. Perhaps all Freshmen should be required to take some form of a time management class and a class on how to write a correct paper.

In sum, my experience with the honor council started out as a painful one but ended up enforcing several positive and permanent changes in my life. There is no doubt in my mind that whatever challenges I may face in the future, academic dishonesty will never be one of them. I hope to have the letter of censure removed from my record so that when I apply to graduate schools, they will see the dedicated, conscientious student that I am proud to be. I also hope that other Georgetown students will read this essay and that it will influence their academic strategies so that they never find themselves in the situation I did.

Student 3

3 A.M., I was still at the library struggling to write a paper for my “X” course. The deadline had already passed by one day, and ten pages seemed unconquerable. In the back of my mind, I was also worried about two exams which were scheduled in the same week. I felt close to a nervous breakdown. I just wanted to get the “X” paper finished, so I started to copy down parts of chapters from books without using quotation marks. This action has changed my summer and my post-graduation plan, and became a defining experience of my years at Georgetown.

I wasn’t a fast writer. I started to write academic papers in English only after coming to Georgetown. Being English is my second language, I had to spend more time preparing, writing and correcting papers. But for this “X” paper, I left myself with little time.Although the topic was given out in the beginning of the course, I only started to do research a few days before the deadline. In my third year at Georgetown, I developed a bad habit, which was to leave things until the last minute. I had a “Y” final paper due a few days prior to the“X” paper, and I spent most of time writing it, because I considered it the more important task. With little time left, I submitted to the temptation of plagiarism.

At that time, I wasn’t aware of the honor code and the consequences of its violation, which I regret the most. I read the honor code only after I was charged with the violation. Yet, I now know that such ignorance does not ease my wrongdoing because I knew clearly that I was doing something wrong at that time through my prior teachings in writing classes. Writing difficulties, and the bad habit of putting off my writing assignments, had existed before, but this time I made a different choice, a bad one, which involved a more fundamental problem of my values and my ethics.

I was a consequentialist. In the beginning of the semester, I set a challenging goal for myself of getting an A in the “Y” class,since I wanted to continue my study in “Y” at the graduate level. This goal was very important to me personally. I also knew that I needed strong grades for my application to graduate school to be successful. I have never received an A in classes which required heavy writing. In fact, during the final period, my desire to do well intensified because I was at the borderline between a B+ and an A- grade. This “obsession”,however, resulted in a disaster because I was now faced with the time constraint for the “X” paper and still had to study for other exams. To solve this problem, I took a consequentialist approach. I allocated my time according to its importance. That meant finishing the “X” paper as soon as possible and spending more time on the two exams. After finishing the “X” paper in such a wrongful way, I started to worry about it a little bit, but all I expected was an automatic lower grade from the professor. The violation of the honor code was not in my consciousness. I sought an easy way out by compromising my morals to consequentialist calculation.

I’m truly thankful to the honor council and the Georgetown Community for giving me a chance to redeem my dignity. To improve my writing skills, I have taken a writing course and have done grammar exercises on my own. I frequently asked my friends to proofread my papers and visited the Writing Center on the 2nd floor of the library.To effectively deal with time and stress management, I researched helpful websites for my benefit and for others.

The violation caused a great shame and disgrace to me, to myf amily, and to the Georgetown community. Yet, I now fully understand and share Georgetown’s commitment to academic integrity in which moral truth cannot be separated from the pursuit of intellectual truth. I learned that honesty, sincerity, and responsibility are the values required to keep this academic integrity alive

Through this painful but valuable lesson, I now fully understand what it takes to be a responsible citizen and a moral being.There are moral boundaries that should not be crossed at any price,despite how big the temptation is. This hard lesson has strengthened my morals and ethics in a fundamental way and I believe it will guide me to a right path in times of greater difficulties in the future. For this, I give thanks to the Georgetown community and especially to the honor council.

Student 4

First, I would like to take the opportunity to say that I am deeply sorry for my actions last spring, which led to a violation of the Honor Code. They were morally and ethically wrong. I wish to apologize to my professor and the members of the board for the grief and trouble I may have caused them because of my actions. I also wish to apologize to my fellow classmates who would have been cheated had my act of plagiarism gone unnoticed.

I would also like to thank the members of the Honor Council for this special opportunity to amend my past wrongdoings. I am not only pleased and fortunate because I have been given a second chance to continue on with my academic career but also because I have had an opportunity to grow as a person through this sanction reduction process. The process has truly made me reflect on my actions last spring and enlightened me in many ways. I feel that I have grown morally, ethically, emotionally and intellectually through the sanction reduction process.

Intellectually I have grown in my ability to prepare and organize myself better so that I can avoid stressful situations, like my final week of exams last spring. The time management seminar, which I attended with Ms. X, has already greatly helped me. I have never been a very organized person, which usually leads me into bad situations where I have little time and too much to do. However, Ms. X’s organization strategy has helped me manage my time better and prioritize my obligations.

I also attended Ms. X’s seminar on college reading, which has helped me save more time and allowed me to keep up with my studies better. Before I would labor through class readings because my reading methods were inefficient. This fact contributed to my violation last year because I would read for hours without finishing the required literature for my class. After a while, I gave up on most of the readings for the class because I wasn’t finishing them anyway. By the end of the semester, I had not read enough to write an acceptable paper, which contributed to my poor decision to plagiarize. Now, I am reading more efficiently at a much better pace and comprehending the information, too.

The last Learning Services seminar I attended was with Ms. Y.The seminar was called “How To Avoid Plagiarism.” Although, I have received some instruction in MLA format, this seminar taught me much more about what is plagiarism and what is not. The reading that Ms. Y offered me explains certain citation practices much clearer than any MLA manual I have ever read. I feel that I am much better prepared to right a research paper than I have ever been.

For my moral, ethical and emotional growth, my discussions with Dr. Z were invaluable. He taught me how to examine my behavior and to learn from it. Talks with Dr. Z and the Honor Council seminar really made me analyze the effects of plagiarism on others. Dr. Z also taught me stress management techniques, which should help me deal with tough times and make better decisions.

Finally, the whole process has given me time to evaluate my violation and myself. Undoubtedly, I would not have learned so muchf rom others if this option were not open to me. More importantly, this process has caused me to privately reflect on my actions and grow from my mistakes much more than a simple sanction would have. I am truly grateful for this opportunity to wipe my slate clean and to grow out of this experience.

Student 5

I am writing this statement in order to take responsibility for the actions I carried out in an English class this past spring. I would also like to find a way to redeem myself as a student and at the same time, as an honorable person of this University. I am deeply ashamed that I would ever pursue such a course of action. Throughout high school, I followed a strict honor pledge that I was required to sign on every one of my assignments. I did religiously follow this honor system and respect its guidelines. I feel as though it became apart of my lifestyle. I do think of myself as a very honorable and respectable person. I do not consider this a reflection of my character.

Last semester, as a freshman, I used poor judgment and let the consequences of waiting until the last minute to do an assignment cloud my judgment. Feeling as if I had lost control, I proceeded to take a“short cut” in order to complete the assignment. Upon searching the internet for other resources to quote in my paper, I came upon a sample essay similar to what I was writing about. I never intended to copy the entire essay; however, I began cutting and pasting, and an hour later,I had a paper that was definitely not my own work. I never could have imagined myself committing such an act; however, seventeen credits later, I let the pressure and the abundance of work overwhelm me. I realize that such an action takes away my credibility and this is what most upsets me. I have worked hard to get where I am today and have always completed my work to the highest quality I am capable of. I was an honors student throughout high school and have been on the dean’s list since attending the University. I am a hard working student and I intend to continue on this path. This current semester, I am taking four classes to ensure that I will be able to handle my course load.

When the investigating officer called me up and informed me about the situation, I was too ashamed to tell anyone what had happened. This action does not reflect who I am or who I want to be.Within an hour, I had broken down in tears to my best friend and had my parents on the phone at the same time. My parents were not mad at me,just very disappointed. I had always been their star and now I just felt like a cheater. I couldn’t study for finals or talk to anyone because I was so upset and ashamed. All summer I thought about the incident and was too embarrassed to talk about it. It made me sick to my stomach to think that I could have done something like this. I wrote a letter to my professor apologizing for my disgraceful behavior, but that was all I could do. This act loomed over my head all summer long;it was just something I was going to have to live with. I was eventually contacted for a hearing when I came back to school in September. My parents wanted to accompany me; however, I needed to deal with this alone. It was my mistake and I was prepared for the consequences. Confronting my professor was the hardest part because I was so ashamed. I continued to apologize to the professor; however, I will always remember her final words, “ You had an A in the class. You were doing fine. I just wish you would have come to me if you had needed extra time.” I worked hardly all semester in this class and then, not only ruined my grade, but lost credibility with the professor as well.

I am a perfectionist. I always need to make deadlines and finish my work to the highest quality. I never thought that I would resort to such an extreme; however, I have learned a very important lesson. This entire situation has been a nightmare, but an important growing experience. I made a mistake and now I must deal with the consequences. I feel as though I have matured from this experience and have become a better person as a result of it. I confronted the situation head on and I am happy that I was caught because I can guarantee you that I will never do this again. I have been put back on track. I look at this as a test of my inner strength and character. I know that I will make amends for my actions.

I am proud to be a part of this University and I intend to make Georgetown proud of me in the future. I have learned a very painful lesson. Not only have I suffered embarrassment, but I have disappointed myself and my family for not living up to my moral standards of conduct. I hope that you can see that I made a mistake and that I am completely remorseful. I know that I have to live with the consequences, but I do intend to make amends according to this university’s standards. In the future, I intend to use long range planning and better judgment. I can assure everyone here that this will never happen again.