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By the numbers

The Honor System

The Honor System is one of Princeton’s proudest academic traditions because it was established and has been maintained almost exclusively by undergraduates.

Under the system, undergraduates assume full responsibility for honesty in written examinations, which are not supervised. On each examination paper, the student writes and signs the following statement: “I pledge my honor that I have not violated the honor code during this examination.”

• The system dates to 1893, when some of the most influential juniors and seniors proposed putting undergraduate test-takers on their honor to counter the widespread use of crib sheets and plagiarism. The Daily Princetonian, in an editorial dated Jan. 13, 1893, endorsed an honor system as proposed by senior Charles Ottley and others.

• At the next faculty meeting, Dean James Murray motioned that the faculty consent to the students’ honor system plan. With Professor Woodrow Wilson’s eloquent support, the motion passed. Dean Murray’s senior English examinations in February 1893 were the first to be taken under the new system.

• In 1895, students approved an honor system constitution, which established a standing committee to judge honor code violations. There have been few changes to the constitution since. Students are expected to report any honor code violations they witness, and these cases are heard by the Honor Committee, which is made up of undergraduates.

• Students also are now required to pledge on their honor that they have not cheated on other academic work in addition to in-class examinations. Violations of this pledge fall under the jurisdiction of the Committee on Discipline, which is made up of students, faculty and administrators.

Source: “Frequently Asked Questions” on the Mudd Manuscript Library Web site <www.princeton.edu/mudd/news/faq/>.