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Honor Pledge Task Force Seeks to Transform Campus Culture

The honors pledge is displayed throughout residence halls and many other buildings across campus.

One of the new, physical additions to campus this year is the Honor Tracks monument, which celebrates Purdue’s new student honor pledge.

Located on the lawn between Elliott Hall of Music, the Psychological Sciences building and Haas Hall, the 40 feet of black granite railroad track spells out the words of the new student honor pledge:

“As a Boilermaker pursuing academic excellence, I pledge to be honest and true in all that I do. Accountable together – We are Purdue.”

The words and monument are a welcome addition to campus, but it’s the work of members of the Honor Pledge Task Force that is transforming the pledge into a part of Purdue’s culture. The Task Force is made up of 10 undergraduates and two graduate students who seek to advance a supportive environment that promotes academic integrity and excellence.

The idea behind the Honor Pledge was initiated by a Purdue Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities survey on academic integrity and dishonesty, which found that 85 percent of students said academic integrity was important to the quality of their education. A survey conducted by the International Center of Academic Integrity found that 68 percent of undergraduates nationwide admit to cheating on writing assignments or tests.

Inspired by the findings, a 15-member student team spearheaded the initiative to create Purdue’s Honor Pledge. Led by Cameron Mann (’16), who served as the student trustee on Purdue’s Board of Trustees, the pledge received support from Purdue President Mitch Daniels, the Office of the Provost, the Office of the Dean of Students, Purdue Student Government, Purdue Graduate Student Government and University Senate during its development phase. The Honor Pledge Task Force was formed during the summer of 2017 to lead the implementation of the pledge into its next phase.

Chaired by sophomore Stephen Schwartz, the Task Force is working to create a campus-wide culture that is aware of and values academic integrity.

“Academic integrity is a part of what we do,” says Schwartz, a double major in agronomy and agribusiness. “I hope that everyone at Purdue is pursuing academic excellence but, to a certain extent, we’re also calling students to not just academic integrity, but academic success. Academic integrity matters not just for us in the present, but for Purdue’s reputation moving forward.”

Initiatives for the social impact of the pledge are already beginning to take shape. For the first time, incoming freshman and transfers in fall 2017 heard messages about academic integrity incorporated into Boiler Gold Rush and Summer Transition, Advising and Registration programs. The goal, Schwartz says, is to eventually incorporate messaging about academic honesty into admissions procedures so the importance of academic integrity becomes clear from the first time a prospective student considers attending the university.

The Task Force is pursuing connections with current students through the division of Student Life. The Task Force is building relationships with the Residence Hall Association, Purdue Student Government, Purdue Graduate Student Government, Fraternity, Sorority and Cooperative Life, the Interfraternity Council and other hall clubs and organizations within the division to create awareness of the organization’s mission.

Incorporating faculty into the mission of the Pledge is another front the Task Force has been active on. Faculty members have bought in to the mission by incorporating messages about academic integrity into syllabi and lessons, as well as printing the pledge on examinations. The Task Force is working towards building an online resource center for faculty and students.

In addition to the Honor Tracks, physical changes that showcase the pledge are evident in the form of plaques displaying the pledge in academic buildings.

The long-term goal, Schwartz said, is to make academic integrity an ingrained part of Purdue’s culture.

“When I send my kids here in 30 years, I want the culture here at Purdue University to be where you can walk up to any student walking down the street and say ‘Tell me about the honor pledge,” said Schwartz. “And nine times out of 10, they’ll know the pledge and know why it matters.”

To learn more about the Honor Pledge, click here.

This story was originally published in our Perspectives publication in the Spring 2018. To view the full issue, please visit our Perpectives page.