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Interpretations of the Honor Code

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In the spring of 1977, the Student Conduct Legislative Council authored and adopted the following guidelines to assist students and faculty in understanding their rights and obligations under the University's Honor Code. The most recent revisions to the original text were adopted in the Spring of 2023 by the Board on Conduct Affairs.

It must be understood that the individual and collective responsibility of the students for upholding the Honor Code was not imposed upon the students by the administration or the faculty but was assumed by the students at their own request starting in 1921. Without such student responsibility, the Honor Code cannot be effectively maintained.

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  • Last Amended: Spring 2023


  • The Honor Code is agreed to by every student who registers at Stanford University and by every instructor who accepts an appointment.
  • The Honor Code provides a standard of honesty and declares that compliance with that standard is to be expected. It does not contemplate that the standard will be self-enforcing but calls on students, faculty, and administration to encourage compliance and to take reasonable steps to discourage violations. If violations occur, procedures are prescribed by the Student Judicial Charter of 1997. However, the Honor Code depends for its effectiveness primarily on the individual and collective desire of all members of the community to prevent and deter violations rather than on proceedings to impose penalties after violations have occurred.
  • In interpreting and applying the general provisions of the Honor Code, it should be kept in mind that although primary responsibility for making the Code effective rests with the students, faculty cooperation is essential, since the faculty sets the academic requirements which students are to meet. The faculty should endeavor to avoid academic requirements and procedures which place honorable and conscientious students at a disadvantage. The faculty should also be ready and willing to consult with students and should be responsive to their suggestions in these matters.
  • While an instructor's failure to observe these guidelines might be viewed as an extenuating circumstance in evaluating penalty options for a student's misconduct, it would not preclude the initiation of an otherwise warranted charge against the student.

Specific Interpretations and Applications

1. Unpermitted Academic Aid

Unpermitted academic aid is defined as academic aid that a reasonable member of the Stanford community would conclude unfairly benefits a student in completing that student's graded work.

Unpermitted academic aid includes but is not limited to:
  • Actions or resources expressly prohibited in university policy, the course syllabus, or on the instructions for a given assignment.
  • Collaboration between students not explicitly allowed by the instructor.
  • The use of another person’s work product without attribution (which is plagiarism as defined by the Board on Conduct Affairs).
  • Copying from or consulting a classmate’s work, with or without their knowledge or consent, when it is not expressly permitted by the instructor.
  • One student permitting another student to copy work that is or will be graded, without permission of the instructor.
Permitted academic aid includes but is not limited to:
  • Resources that are already in open, general use by the community, and not usually subject to prohibitions on use.
  • Aid that is explicitly allowed by an instructor.

2. Instructors

Instructors means all members of the Stanford teaching staff, including faculty, adjuncts, lecturers, TAs, or any other Stanford instructional staff in a position to grade or assess student work.

3. Third-Party Responsibility

A primary responsibility assumed by students is to discourage violations of the Honor Code by others. Various methods are possible. Drawing attention to a suspected violation may stop it. Moral suasion may be effective. Initiating formal procedures is a necessary and obligatory remedy when other methods are inappropriate or have failed. Faculty members have like responsibilities when suspected violations come to their attention.

4. Proctoring

Proctoring means being present in the examination room during a written examination, with the following exceptions:

  • The prohibition against proctoring should not be construed to prohibit an instructor or teaching assistant from remaining in the examination room for the first few minutes to distribute and explain the examination; or from visiting the examination room briefly to transmit additional information; or from returning at the end of the examination to collect examination papers.
  • Nor does the prohibition against proctoring prohibit an instructor or teaching assistant from visiting the examination room in response to specific reports from students that cheating has been observed, to investigate the basis for such reports.
  • The instructor or teaching assistant may also visit the examination room briefly and infrequently in order to answer students' questions.

5. Unusual and Unreasonable Precautions

In interpreting and applying this provision, consideration should be given to standard procedures which are customary to Stanford and the need for cooperation between students and faculty in making the Honor Code effective. The following situations are cited as examples:

  • An instructor may set policies regarding items that may be brought into the testing environment (e.g., prohibiting electronic devices, backpacks, etc. per prior guidance) and may ask students to leave those materials outside of or at the front of the examination room. An instructor should not require students to be searched for notes or other materials, or maintain surveillance upon students who leave the examination room.
  • An instructor may require students to identify themselves upon entering an examination room, provided clear advance notice is given. When identification is required, all students entering the examination room must present identification. Any generally recognized photo identification shall be accepted (e.g., a Stanford ID or government-issued driver's license or identification card, or their official digital equivalents).
  • An instructor should not take deliberate steps to invite dishonesty in order to entrap students. Procedures of this kind would be unusual and unreasonable. On the other hand, an instructor may require copies of an examination or test to be returned after the examination.
  • When possible, alternate seating should be provided and used for all examinations.
  • To avoid controversy in any rereading or regrading of students' work, the instructor may take measures by which the original work may be clearly identified.
  • With clear advance notice, an instructor may systematically compare work submitted to current or previous submissions.
  • An instructor who requires students to make up a missed test or examination may administer a different test or examination of equivalent range and difficulty. Such procedures are not to be construed as unusual or unreasonable.

6. Procedures that Create Temptations to Violate the Honor Code

Although students are expected to resist temptations to cheat, the faculty should endeavor to minimize inducements to dishonesty. Examples of undesirable procedures include the following:

  • failure to give clear directions and instructions concerning course requirements and the limits of acceptable collaboration in coursework;
  • treating required work casually as if it were unimportant;
  • carelessness or inconsistency in maintaining security of examinations or tests;
  • reusing an examination which is neither kept secure from public exposure nor made available to all students.

If take-home examinations are given, they should not be closed-book examinations, nor should there be a specific time limit less than the full period between the distribution of the examination and its due date. Such procedures place honorable and conscientious students in a difficult position and often at a disadvantage, and could be interpreted as mitigating by a judicial panel.

7. Penalty Grading

Students are not to be penalized for violations of the Honor Code without adjudication under the procedures specified by the Student Judicial Charter of 1997. An instructor may not, therefore, lower a student's grade or impose any other academic penalty on the grounds of dishonesty in the absence of such formal proceedings.

8. Instructor Discretion

Procedures falling under instructor discretion would include exam location, alternate times for exams, and alteration of due dates. Tests will be taken from the classroom only with the consent of the instructor.

9. Basis of Grading

All student work in a course or independent study (exams, quizzes, problem sets, drafts of papers, oral presentations, internet/websites, research, classroom discussions, etc.) forms the basis for evaluating and/or grading. The Honor Code applies to all academic work whether or not the work is given a letter grade, and whether or not the Honor Code is cited and/or signed. Therefore, regardless of the nature or extent of an assignment, academic dishonesty of any type is expressly prohibited and should always be considered a violation of the Honor Code.

10. Dual Submission Policy

One of the principal motivations behind the Honor Code is to prevent one student from taking unfair advantage over the other students in a class. For example, receiving unpermitted aid on an assignment or consulting notes on a closed book exam gives a student an advantage that students who adhere to the Honor Code do not have. In much the same way, submitting the same work in more than one course without the knowledge of the instructor undermines fairness because faculty assume that student work prepared for a course is done for that course alone. To this end, the Interpretations of the Stanford Honor Code shall include the following:

No student may submit substantially similar work in more than one class without the approval of any instructors who might otherwise assume that the work has been undertaken in their classes alone. Thus, submitting work that was prepared for a previous class requires the approval of the current instructor. Submitting substantially similar work in concurrent classes requires approval, in advance, from each instructor.