HMC Honor Code

Hello prospective students! It’s Mason, talking about the Honor Code!

Headshot of Mason Acevedo wearing glasses, a gray collared shirt, and a striped tie.

Mason Acevedo, Class of 2022

You might be asking yourself, what is the Honor Code? Well, the Honor Code is a set of principles that all HMC students agree to follow when they come here. It’s an agreement between students that we will do the right thing in academic and social affairs. Don’t cheat on schoolwork, and be nice to each other. (More about the Honor Code)

For this post, I interviewed Mudd’s Honor Board Chairs, Harry Fetsch and Cat Ngo, to get their perspective on what the Honor Code is and what it means for students to be a part of it.

Also, I interviewed them separately for scheduling reasons. I don’t know how that might have impacted their answers, but that’s just something to keep in mind. Enjoy!

Interview with Judiciary Chair Harry Fetsch

Can you give me a brief summary of what the Honor Code is?

“The Honor code is a sense of integrity in both academic and social areas.  A sense of integrity is not unique to Mudd, but here it’s built into the community. We’re members of a community who’ve bought into something.

In practice, it means we get a lot of privileges like take-home tests and 24-hour access to classrooms, labs,  and computer spaces.”

Why did you decide to become an Honor Board Chair?

“I care about maintaining the system that we have. [The Honor Code] doesn’t maintain itself. Most of what I do is try to get people to buy into it.

It’s a particularly involved job with professors who’ve had a case where they feel like their trust has been violated. I’m not there to tell them they’re wrong with suspicions of cheating, but I work to restore their trust in the system.

I felt like these are really important things to do, I didn’t want to be an Honor Board Chair to handle cases. My main reason was to improve the communication and understanding between each part of the community. ”

What does it mean for a Mudd student to follow the Honor Code?

“It means to act with integrity, which I’m aware is a circular definition. The Honor Code isn’t a set of laws or something like that. It’s not like if someone breaks the Honor Code, they’ve violated some specific rule. If someone feels that they’ve done something wrong, they come forward with the intention of restoring trust in the community.

While self-reporting usually happens, it doesn’t happen every time. In cases where a person informs the Honor Board of someone else’s actions, a group of 8 elected students decide whether there’s clear and convincing evidence of an Honor Code violation. They have experience with the process and the community’s expectations, and they decide whether community trust has been broken, and how that trust might be restored.”

How does the Honor Code contribute to Mudd’s overall culture?

“I think it’s an underlying thing. It’s not something that you would point to as a visible part of the culture, but it appears in the mentality of the things we do. Not only do students trust each other, but also students and professors trust each other. I think that’s only possible when no group is ‘out to get’ another group in the community.

The Honor Code underlies a lot of our academic traditions. The amount of work we have wouldn’t be possible if professors didn’t trust students to take tests on their own without cheating, to complete solo homework problems without help, or more generally, to collaborate appropriately.”

If you could tell prospective students one thing about the Honor Code, what would it be?

“I want them to know that in coming to HMC, they’re joining a community that’s tight-knit and trusting in a way that’s possible because of the honor code. This only works because we have a network of implicit trust in the community, between students, faculty, and, staff all-around. I don’t know if the honor code is the cause or effect of that trust, but they’re tied together.”

Additional Comments

“The Honor Code is student run. A lot of schools have systems where faculty and staff, in addition to students, run the honor board. At Mudd, the honor board is ultimately run by students. The students make the decisions at the end of the day (in coordination with faculty and administration)”

That’s also the reason the self-report system works. When students self-report, they’re talking to a fellow student, and not someone who might punish them.”

Interview with Disciplinary Chair Cat Ngo

Can you give me a brief summary of what the Honor Code is?

I see the Honor Code as a set of guidelines and expectations that balance the norms, expectations, and values of the community with the policies set by the administration and faculty.

Our intention with the Honor Code system is not to be punitive. We’re not here to make you pay for your mistakes. We stress the importance of reflection and taking responsibility for your actions.

The Honor Code system is run primarily by students, which gives us a chance to be honest. Students feel more comfortable taking responsibility for their actions because a peer would understand them better than a dean.

Why did you decide to become an Honor Board Chair?

To give back to the community – I had previous experience as an honor board representative and I thought helping students in the honor code procedure and making them feel less stressed was very rewarding.

I wanted to be proactive in helping the community understand the Honor Code process, move forward with procedures, and buy in and have in faith in the process.

What does it mean for a Mudd student to follow the Honor Code?

I think it’s being unafraid to take responsibility for your actions. It doesn’t mean you never violate the Honor Code – I think it’s unreasonable to expect people to never violate the honor code. College is very much the place to have room to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes.

If you do mess up, there is a very supportive space to take responsibility for your mistake, guide you through the Honor Code process, and understand the impact of your actions.

I think many students know this process will be transparent, and treat them with respect and fairness. That way, students can be comfortable with self-reporting, think and reflect on their mistakes, and consider how they might avoid those mistakes in the future.

How does the Honor Code contribute to Mudd’s overall culture?

It gives students a lot more freedom. Faculty and administration use the Honor Code as a mechanism to give trust to students. We get a lot of freedoms that we wouldn’t otherwise have.

While a lot of other schools have Honor Codes, what makes HMC’s unique is that the students here very much believe in it and follow it. I get a lot of emails from people who are wondering if something they’ve done is a violation of the honor code

If you could tell prospective students one thing about the Honor Code, what would it be?

The Honor Code gives you a very unique opportunity to see how a community behaves when people trust each other. It’s a very unique opportunity to see how people live, work, and learn together when everyone is trusted to do their work honestly, collaborate honestly, and be transparent with how they do things.