Many students expressed shock and disappointment November 5 at a discussion of the new trial abstract, “The Tempest,” released by Honor Council last week.
The abstract relates how a student was permanently separated from the community for stealing a password in order to gain access to Moodle and alter his and other students’ grades. According to an Honor Council email, this is “the first permanent separation from Haverford College in recorded memory,” and the unusually high attendance at the abstract discussion on Tuesday suggested that students felt deeply affected by both the degree of the violation and the result of the trial.
According to the abstract, the student memorized the Moodle password of a friend, who was also a teacher’s assistant in one of his classes, and subsequently used the password multiple times to raise his own exam grades and lower those of his classmates.
Many students who spoke were in favor of the jury’s decision to permanently separate the student, even though his status as an international student means that his student visa would be revoked.
“The Honor Code has a limit,” said Ivan Sanchez ‘15. “You can’t violate it so much and not be held accountable.” Others also agreed that the need to “heal” the Haverford community had to take precedence over the desire to be flexible with regard to the student’s situation.
Others expressed their approval that the jury had decided to make the separation openly rather than effectively permanent, a decision which the “Tempest” abstract compared to the “Amelia Earhart” case released in 2011, in which a student sought online help from paid tutors in multiple classes.
In “Amelia,” while the confronted student was not barred from attempting to return to Haverford, she would have to wait several years and reassemble members of her original jury in order to reapply.
“Amelia” jury member and a former Honor Council co-secretary Ian Gavigan ‘14 disagreed with the “Tempest” abstract’s comparison of the two cases, saying the resolutions of Amelia were not “hoops to be jumped through,” but “very deliberate and painfully thought-through”choices in terms of “what it would mean for the community to be restored.”
Many who spoke at Tuesday’s discussion, however, suggested the impossibility of any such restoration, likening the student to a cancerous cell that could potentially infect the entire community.
Of particular concern was the fact that the separated student had lowered the grades of other students in his class in addition to raising his own. Several students expressed discomfort at the idea of taking a class with someone who might jeopardize the results of their own work.
Claire-Marie Caseau ‘15 called the violation “systemic,” saying that changing others’ grades not only entails an individual violation of the code, but also “attack[s] the professor and the grading system of Haverford.”
Students also raised concerns about the student’s use of technology to violate the Honor Code, echoing fears that technology has made it easier to cheat, Others countered that it’s also easier to catch people.
“In the long term, we would be setting ourselves back if we used this as an excuse to limit technology in the classroom,” said Phil Drexler ‘14.
Co-Chair Ryan Baxter-King ‘16 noted that, although the average has increased to 10 cases per semester, up from zero to six cases three years ago, that increase could be attributed to more confrontations, not necessarily more violations.
Still, after the discussion many students were disconcerted by the severity of the “Tempest” and “Amelia” violations.
“Is the Code eroding bit by bit?” asked Alison Marqusee ‘16. “Or is this just a fluke?”
Regardless of the increase in cases, the focus of every Honor Council trial is on accountability, education, and restoration, both for the individual and the community, Baxter-King said.