President approves new Honor Code, updating 102-year-old policy

May 26, 2023, 2:07 a.m.

Changes to the Honor Code proposed by the Committee of 12 (C12), including the implementation of a multi-year study into proctoring, were passed with the approval of President Marc Tessier-Lavigne during a meeting of the Academic Council on Thursday. The move comes just days after the Undergraduate Senate revisited its prior votes against the C12’s proposed changes, opting to pass the proctoring study proposal in lieu of accepting the Faculty Senate’s previous precedent-breaking motion to permit full-scale proctoring.

Faculty Senate Chair Kenneth Schultz and University President Marc Tessier-Lavigne also shared what the University has accomplished in the past year. Following these updates, senators participated in a panel on “ChatGPT, Generative AI, and the Future of Teaching and Learning” to discuss the role AI will play in education at Stanford. 

Thursday’s council meeting was held in lieu of the biweekly Faculty Senate meeting to conclude the academic year.

Passing proposed Honor Code changes

Following the Undergraduate Senate’s unanimous vote earlier this week to approve changes to the Honor Code proposed by the C12 (after twice rejecting the proposals previously), the C12’s proposals received a final stamp of approval by President Tessier-Lavigne during the meeting of the Academic Council.

UGS Parliamentarian Ivy Chen ’26 said that its vote would “kill two birds with one stone” by simultaneously restoring the relationship between the UGS and the Faculty Senate and by further including student concern on the process.

The C12 was formed to re-evaluate Stanford’s policies on academic integrity. Schultz commended the C12 for making changes that he said will make the Honor Code more flexible and rehabilitative for students.

“For years faculty, students, and staff have complained that the process is too much like a criminal proceeding with high stakes and large burdens to navigate it,” he said. “The new system is designed to be much more flexible, better able to match the consequences with the severity of the in fraction, and more focused on helping the student who just made a mistake to get back on the right track.” 

Last month, the Faculty Senate moved to allow exam proctoring in a controversial move that bypassed the Undergraduate Senate’s vote against such a policy, ending a 102-year precedent of faculty-student collaboration on the issue of academic integrity and discipline. 

Tessier-Lavigne’s final approval concludes the work of the C12. Its proposals — including the Student Conduct Charter of 2023, or updated Judicial Charter language approved by Tessier-Lavigne on May 7 — also required the approval of the Board on Judicial Affairs (BJA), the Undergraduate Senate (UGS), the Graduate Student Council (GSC) and the Faculty Senate. The Honor Code is reported to have last been modified before 2000.

“I welcome the decision by the Undergraduate Senate on Tuesday to join the Faculty Senate, the Graduate Student Council and the Board [on] Judicial Affairs in approving the recommendation by the Committee of 12 to modify the text and to conduct a multiyear study to examine proctoring,” Tessier-Lavigne said. “So here and now, as President, I am formally adding the fifth vote needed today to make that official university policy.”

The C12 proposal includes language that more explicitly states that academic integrity “is an undertaking of the Stanford academic community, individually and collectively.” It also establishes the Academic Integrity Working Group (AIWG), which will commission and implement a multi-year study about “equitable proctoring practices.” The charge, or mandate and guidelines, of the AIWG will require the approval of the same bodies that have approved of the C12’s proposals.

Schultz said he saw a divide between students, who were not in favor of proctoring, and the faculty, who were in favor. This issue raised questions of acting unilaterally on the Honor Code or emphasizing the tradition of cooperation between faculty and students. “As I watch the debate on the floor I can tell that many of my colleagues were torn in both directions by those competing values,” he said.

Chair Kenneth Schultz’s report 

Schultz also reflected on his time as the chair of the Faculty Senate, as well as the issues that the Senate has legislated on over the past academic year.

“A vigorous senate is a healthy one for faculty governance, even if it’s not always easy for the person whose job it is to make sure the meetings end at five,” Schultz said. “I failed at that quite often, but I thank you for trusting me in that role.”

Schultz reaffirmed the Faculty Senate’s commitments to solving the issue of the academic year starting on a Jewish holiday. If unaddressed, the first day of classes would continue to fall on a Jewish holiday four more times over the coming decade. This academic year began on Rosh Hashanah, and the upcoming academic year would have fallen on Yom Kippur. 

In November, the Faculty Senate voted to move the first day of classes from Monday, Sep. 25 to Tuesday, Sep. 26 for the 2023-24 academic year. For a more permanent solution, some stakeholders have proposed shortening the academic quarter by a day, while others have proposed moving the start day by one day and making up for it at the middle of the quarter. 

“A definitive answer has escaped us so far this year but the quest for the right balance goes on for now,” Schultz said.

Schultz also spoke on academic freedom, including university policies and academic speech. The issue first arose in December with the Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative (EHLI), a comprehensive guide on alternatives to discriminatory terms. Among the guide was suggestions to use “masked study” as opposed to “blind study” and “ordinary person” in lieu of “normal person.” 

The guide was taken down in early January after widespread opposition. The Faculty Senate then created a committee tasked with assessing the University policies that concern academic speech and recommending necessary steps. 

“This isn’t a problem we’re going to be able to legislate away,” Schultz said. “We need to come up with innovative ways to support faculty on navigating discussions on difficult topics and approach students on sensitive and disturbing topics.” 

President Tessier-Lavigne’s report

Tessier-Lavigne started off his report commending faculty and staff for their contributions to allowing the University to navigate a new sense of normal post-pandemic, as well as recognizing various awards and elections. According to Tessier-Lavigne, the University invested an additional $100 million in research support over the past two years. 

For the past two years, Stanford has been in the “quiet phase” of the Long Range Plan (LRP), which is the plan for the university to enhance undergraduate and graduate education through advancements in research, accessibility and community-building. During this phase, each of the seven schools generated philanthropic support that will anchor the rest of the campaign. Tessier-Lavigne announced the funding has exceeded the $6.2 billion raised during the Stanford Challenge, which was a major fundraising campaign launched in 2006 to provide funds for the need-blind admissions policy and construction. 

“It’s a testament to the important work that you, our faculty, are doing to advance fundamental discovery, to apply knowledge and to educate the next generation of leaders,” he said. 

Tessier-Lavigne reiterated that, next fall, families with annual incomes of less than $100,000 will be eligible for free tuition and room and board, up from the previous threshold of $75,000. For enrolled students, he said that the University is working to improve students’ social life, including loosening constraints within the neighborhood system, bolstering social life by providing event spaces and making the process for student-led events more efficient. 

The President specifically highlighted developments within three areas of Stanford: the Doerr School of Sustainability, the Civic, Liberal, and Global Education (COLLEGE) program and the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access in a Learning Environment (IDEAL) initiative. In Doerr’s first year of operations, the school has funded 30 teams of scientists who are tackling problems related to environmental sustainability, established the first flagship destination and advanced various education initiatives, according to Tessier-Lavigne. 

COLLEGE, which replaced the Thinking Matters (THINK) requirement for undergraduates, has now become a mandatory two-quarter requirement for first year students, expanding its covered concepts to various interdisciplinary topics. 

“I believe passionately in the next generation for lives of active citizenship and to offer [students] the tools they need to engage productively to learn how to disagree without being disagreeable,” Tessier-Lavigne said. 

Under the IDEAL initiative, the department of African & African American studies (AAAS) is expected to launch in January 2024, pending board approval. Ato Quayson, English department chair, will serve as the new department’s inaugural chair. The University will also establish a new institute on race, which will be led by Tomás Jiménez, professor of sociology, and Brian Lowrey, professor at the Stanford Graduate of Business. 

Tessier-Lavigne closed his report with recognition for Provost Persis Drell, who will be stepping down after six years in the position.

“I’m grateful for her partnership as we developed the University’s Long Range Vision with her support,” he said. “I found it enormously fulfilling to work so closely together.”

ChatGPT panel

Following remarks to the Senate by Schultz and Tessier-Lavigne, senators heard a panel on “ChatGPT, Generative AI, and the Future of Teaching and Learning” regarding the role AI will play in education at Stanford. The panel recommended that academics leverage the use of AI for learning and embrace the forthcoming changes that AI will bring to education. 

The panel was moderated by Daniel Schwartz, Dean of the Graduate School of Education, and featured a variety of tenured and non-tenured professors. Ge Wang, associate professor of music, spoke about the recent phenomenon of academics feeling obligated to use artificial intelligence, which he said he noticed in his cross-listed music and computer science course. 

“That can be defined as not just the fear of missing out but the fear of being left behind. It’s the feeling of almost a sense of obligation to incorporate AI into our work, almost as if that’s the only way to feel validated,” he said. 

Wang said that he sees AI transforming into more of a modern oracle, where students can take their questions and it’ll generate an answer without showing how the answer came to be. But he said that he also sees AI as a tool that students can use to get better at skills. 

Distinguishing between the two and finding meaning in it, he says, is key in figuring out what role AI plays in our society. “It’s incredibly important to figure out how much of it should be oracle or like an oracle and how much should be a tool that humans can wield,” he said.

Schwartz then introduced an unexpected guest: ChatGPT. 

“Is education entering an existential moment with ChatGPT?” he asked. 

President approves new Honor Code, updating 102-year-old policy
Daniel Schwartz asked ChatGPT, “Is education entering an existential moment with ChatGPT?” as part of a panel on artificial intelligence at Thursday’s Academic Council meeting. (Screenshot: GRACE LEE/The Stanford Daily)

Sarah R. Levine, assistant professor of education, followed up with her perspectives on the role of AI in the K-12 space. On one hand, Levine said that high schoolers feel frustrated not having counter arguments to their work and ideas, whereas teachers feel frustrated at the quality of work that students submit. Levine added that ChatGPT allows students to have an entity to argue against and teachers to have examples of academic arguments that students can learn from. 

“Becoming more comfortable with AI so you can learn how to manipulate it will help kids become the creative and growth-oriented students that we hope they’ll be,” Levine said.

Dora Demszky, assistant professor of education, agreed with Levine on leveraging AI to make the field of teaching more enjoyable, efficient and enticing. More specifically, with no teaching assistants or additional help, Demszky said that teachers can use ChatGPT to provide more reactive feedback. 

“Sometimes I give feedback to my students at like 11 p.m. and I’m just so tired,” Demszky said. “What if AI could draft something that is positive, that supports the growth mindset and really allows you to be more effective and focus on the things that require your expertise?” 

Victor Lee, assistant professor of education, spoke about how the next generation can be equipped for an AI-centered world. 

“AI is touching everything,” Lee said. “Understanding that this is not just for the computer scientists — and I would contend it should definitely not just be for only the computer scientists — we need the humanists involved, social scientists, journalists. We need everybody to be able to talk about this.” 

With AI being integrated into the very basics of the social fabric, Schwartz said, the importance of creating new conversations about AI regulations becomes especially important in the context of student academics. 

“I think the thing you govern is not the technology, you govern the outcomes you want,” Mehran Sahami, tencent chair of the computer science department said. “You don’t have to have new regulation for the particular kind of technology, you have to have regulation for the kind of values you want the technology to promote.”

Sebastian Strawser contributed reporting.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the COLLEGE program is a two-year track. The Daily regrets this error.

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