Exam proctoring study starts this winter

Nov. 30, 2023, 1:31 a.m.

The Academic Integrity Working Group (AIWG) will begin reevaluating the University’s current honor code next winter through trial proctoring and studying the lack of student self-reporting for academic dishonesty. 

The AIWG is part of the Committee of 12’s (C12) recommended changes to the honor code, which was granted final approval by the President’s office in June following contentious debate among student bodies. The group was created in April and consists of Stanford faculty and students. 

It will propose actionable policy proposals where possible, a task that mathematics professor Brian Conrad, who chairs the C12 Honor Code Committee, wrote “was beyond the scope of the charge of C12.”

The AIWG “deliberations and information-gathering will provide an informed basis for detailed policy proposals to address the range of concerns around academic integrity that have emerged in recent years,” Conrad wrote. 

By changing the honor code to include new technologies and conducting multi-year studies on in-person exam proctoring starting next quarter, the AIWG will study the root cause of academic dishonesty while considering proctor-induced student stress to recommend future policy changes.  

Lawrence Berg, a fifth-year Ph.D. student in chemistry and Graduate Student Council (GSC) representative, said transparency and representation were important for this process. 

“I am pleased to see that Stanford is moving toward improved and more equitable systems of honor code enforcement and judicial arbitration,” Berg wrote in a statement to The Daily. 

Berg voted in support of a motion to replace the second clause of the Honor Code with one that would allow “reasonable proctoring” by instructors.   

“This decision was not made lightly, but with the years of obstructionism by the Undergraduate Senate on any reforms to the Honor Code and/or Judicial Charter, I believed that it was time to accept the fact that they (being that year’s UGS) would never negotiate in good faith,” Berg wrote. 

“Past UGSs did not fruitfully engage with the committees and instead just obstructed any proposals that would increase measures of accountability in grading (including but not limited to proctoring),” Berg wrote. “It says much to me that the UGS was twice the body of the key 5 (Board of Judicial Affairs, UGS, GSC, FacSen, and President) that rejected the proposals.” 

The UGS did not respond to requests for comment.

Berg also mentioned the importance of engagement and collaboration with faculty and student senates in creating a better system of enforcing the honor code. According to the AIWG proposal, the group will include voices from across campus and work to develop effective policy changes that “uphold the culture of academic honesty,” which is essential to the academic experience. 

Portions of the previous honor code are still in the new one, including the importance of collective responsibility of both teachers and students in upholding an environment of academic integrity. But data provided by the C12 committee and even Daily archives from 1929 show that the honor code has not always worked as intended. 

According to the C12’s Recommendations on Academic Integrity Policies from the 2018-19 academic year, only two out of 136 honor code violations were self-reported by students. During the 2019-20 academic year, none of the honor code violations were self-reported by students. 

As Stanford plans on rolling out changes to the honor code, students have expressed various opinions regarding the University’s current educational environment and the prevalence of academic dishonesty. 

Lucy Chen ’27 said that to her knowledge, she and most of her peers followed the academic honor code when taking the MATH 51 midterm this quarter: Most people sat in alternating seats and there were no conversations, per the academic guidelines.

“I think everyone had the same mindset that if one person cheated, anybody else in the room could’ve told the proctor outside, and that prevented all of us from cheating,” she said.

Though Chen took the midterm at an earlier time due to the scheduling conflict, she said all her friends refused to hear details of the exam.

“Plus, the testing room was completely quiet without a proctor,” Chen said. “It’s kind of like ‘mutually assured destruction’ because we know anyone else can tell the proctor if someone was cheating, and it’s not worth the risk to get a zero on the exam.”

Login or create an account