The Code

By Charlotte Bruce Harvey '78 / May / June 2005
May 3rd, 2007

All Brown students—undergraduate, graduate, and medical—receive a booklet called “Principles of the Brown University Community: The Academic Code and Non-Academic Conduct” and must sign a statement agreeing they will abide by its tenets. The Academic Code walks a fine line, emphasizing the cooperative nature of education while making clear that “Cheating undermines the value of a Brown education for everyone, and especially for the person who cheats.”

The Code outlines a laundry list of forbidden strategies for improving one’s grade, some of which are decidedly low-tech and even time-honored: peeking at a neighbor’s exam or sneaking notes into the exam room. Addressing past instances of athletic teams and fraternities bequeathing course materials to younger members from year to year, the Code reads: “Students are not allowed to base their course work on papers, reports, or other course exercises that have been saved or kept on file from earlier years.”

The Code also addresses the complexities and ease of Internet cheating and is particularly clear about the sale of research papers online: “The use of services of commercial ‘research’ companies is cheating and a punishable offense,” the document specifies. But things get fuzzier from there. The document puts the onus on students to learn “the principles that govern each new area of computer operations to which they are introduced. Unauthorized collaboration, unauthorized borrowing of someone else’s data or programs, and use of the Brown computer for unethical purposes are subject to disciplinary or legal action.”

The Code urges faculty to review in their classes “the procedures by which they evaluate student work, and to avoid situations and processes that may make it easy for a student to cut corners or get unauthorized assistance.” It also urges students to report cheating, “anonymously, if they wish.”
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May / June 2005