Upon entering the University of Miami, all undergraduate students sign a pledge to uphold the Undergraduate Honor Code.
“Every student has a role in seeing that the institution’s academic efforts are above board,” Dean of Students Ricardo Hall said. “The Honor Council plays a role when it’s alleged that an academic work is not a student’s own work or is not properly cited.”
The Honor Council, an entirely student-run organization, was established in 1986 as the result of a student referendum.
“The student body did vote and decide that they wanted this to be a part of the university,” Assistant Dean of Students Dayle Wilson said. “It gives the students an opportunity to say how the community should be run and have a say in what happens if someone violates the code of ethics within the UM community.”
Meeting twice a week, the Honor Council is made up of 29 undergraduate students from the various schools and colleges of the university. Graduate assistant to the Honor Council, Ren Werbin, thinks the Honor Council being a student organization is an advantage.
“It’s different when an adult tells you something or when you go through something with an adult versus your own peers,” Werbin said. “I sometimes think it’s more important and more of an eye-opener when your peers are being involved because they are going through what you’re going through at the same time.”
Faculty members who feel that one of their students violated the Honor Code can contact Werbin and fill out a violation form. The students are then notified of the complaint.
“More times than not, the teacher approaches the student,” Werbin said. “So it’s not a shock when they get the call.”
Two student members of the Honor Council are assigned to investigate the case. They speak with both the accused and the complainant to get both accounts, and also review the questioned work in cases of plagiarism.
Once reports are filed, Werbin and the two investigators decide whether the case should go to hearing or be dropped.
Although many students view the Honor Council in a negative light, its purpose on campus is to help.
“It’s tough and it’s hard to sanction people because they see it as ruining their lives,” Werbin said. “But we see it as helping them. When you get out into the real world, you could do a lot more harm to yourself than just learning now.”
The Honor Council is not just a disciplinary body. Along with investigating complaints and holding hearings, it also strives to educate the UM community.
The Honor Council hosts an Academic Integrity Week every year in the spring semester, but it also promotes academic integrity on a daily basis. Members of the Honor Council make presentations to classes and proctor exams when a professor requests them.
“The Honor Council is responsible not just for adjudication,” Wilson said. “But also for educating the community about issues of academic integrity.”