Harvey Mudd College has an honor code that governs the behavior of the student body. In my conversations with students at other institutions, I've become convinced that Harvey Mudd students are entrusted by the administration with much more responsibility in governing themselves than the students at other colleges.

Since the professors buy into the whole honor code thing as well, it gives them a bit more leeway in how they structure their exams. Many upper-division courses give 24-hour exams, or week-long exams. This has the added benefit of leaving class time for covering new material, so not only do the tests take longer than the usual 50- or 70-minute class period, but they also cover more material. Additionally, you typically don't have to worry about time pressure as much, so it's a more accurate representation of what you actually learned in class. In some courses, you're even encouraged to talk to others about how to do the problems, as long as you do the work of writing up the problem yourself.

The honor code is simply stated as: "All members of ASHMC are responsible for maintaining their integrity and the integrity of the college community in all academic matters and in all affairs concerning the community." This simple statement is the basis of the entire disciplinary system at Harvey Mudd.

Anyone who observes an Honor Code Violation is required to report the offense to the Judiciary Board or Disciplinary Board. (This depends on whether the offense breaks a written rule or not. e.g. there's no rule against cheating, but it's clearly a dishonorable thing to do, so it's a JB violation. There is a rule against setting fire to a couch in the dorm courtyard, so that'd be a DB violation. These rules of thumb are relatively arbitrary, so it's the JB and DB chairs that get the final say.) In practice, this usually turns into the person witnessing the offense telling the offender to go and do it himself. The Judiciary Board Chair can try and negotiate an out-of-court settlement (usually with the Dean of Students office).

If a case actually needs a hearing, an investigator for each side is chosen from the student-elected Honor Board. Each side is allowed to disqualify specific members as investigators to ensure impartiality. The investigators work together to try and get a complete description of what transpired, and document everything. Copies of the testimony are given to the plaintiff, defendant, and hearing body (which consists of members of the Honor Board).

At the hearing, both sides get to make their case. A court recorder is appointed by the chair, and tape recorders are set up to make sure a proper record is obtained. After the case is made, the plaintiff and defendant leave, and the board deliberates. The board decides on whether or not the defendant is guilty, and if so, what the punishment will be.

If either party disagrees with the ruling of the Honor Board, they can appeal to the Appeals Board. The Appeals Board is only allowed to rule on procedural errors, though, so unless there was a mistake made in running the trial or investigation, the ruling has a good chance of standing. It is also possible to go straight to the top, and appeal to the President of the college; this is the last hope.

My senior year, I did an independent study project on the history of the college's Honor Code. In order to gain credit for this project, I had to submit a report detailing the research I did.

The introduction to my report

Over the course of this semester (spring 2000), I have assisted the current ASHMC Historian in his work on the ASHMC History Project. This involved working with him on preserving the materials in the ASHMC archive. In order to earn course credit for this work, I had to select a topic in the history of the college to research.

This research has been focused on the Harvey Mudd College Honor Code. My intention was to learn how perceptions of the Honor Code have changed over time, what kinds of cases have been brought to trial, and how the Harvey Mudd judicial system has changed over time. This report details my findings.


Obdisclaimer: "Current" is here defined as spring 2000, which is also incidentally when I was last a student at Mudd, serving on the Honor Board. I haven't heard of any major changes since I left. The copy of the Associated Students of Harvey Mudd College (ASHMC) Constitution available online was last modified on May 11, 2000, so either it hasn't changed, or somebody has been negligent in updating the ASHMC website (http://www.hmc.edu/org/ashmc/).

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