Both the United States Military Academy
The United States Military Academy at West Point is a four-year coeducational federal service academy located at West Point, New York. The academy sits on scenic high ground overlooking the Hudson River, north of New York City...
and the United States Air Force Academy
The United States Air Force Academy is an accredited college for the undergraduate education of officer candidates for the United States Air Force. Its campus is located immediately north of Colorado Springs in El Paso County, Colorado, United States...
have adopted a Cadet Honor Code
as a formalized statement of the minimum standard of ethics expected of cadets. Other military schools have similar codes with their own methods of administration. The United States Naval Academy
The United States Naval Academy is a four-year coeducational federal service academy located in Annapolis, Maryland, United States...
has a related standard, known as the Honor Concept
The Honor Concept and Honor Treatise are parts of the United States Naval Academy's Honor Program. Similar to the Cadet Honor Codes of the United States Military Academy and United States Air Force Academy, the Concept formalizes the requirement for midshipmen to demonstrate integrity while...
A system and tradition of peer-enforced honorable conduct in a higher educational setting has historically been a part of campus life in other notable U.S. institutions, including Princeton
Princeton University is a private research university located in Princeton, New Jersey, United States. The school is one of the eight universities of the Ivy League, and is one of the nine Colonial Colleges founded before the American Revolution....
The California Institute of Technology is a private research university located in Pasadena, California, United States. Caltech has six academic divisions with strong emphases on science and engineering...
, and Harvard
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...
, among others. In contrast, the U.K. educational system has not until very recently adopted such honor codes, sarcastically dubbing them "cheaters charters".
The U.S. Military Academy at West Point
West Point's Cadet Honor Code reads simply that
- "A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do."
Cadets accused of violating the Honor Code face a standardized investigative and hearing process (see Investigative and Hearing System.
). If they are found guilty by a jury of their peers, they face severe consequences, up to and including expulsion from the Academy.
Definitions of the tenets of the Honor Code
LYING: Cadets violate the Honor Code by lying if they deliberately deceive another by stating an untruth or by any direct form of communication to include the telling of a partial truth and the vague or ambiguous use of information or language with the intent to deceive or mislead.
CHEATING: A violation of cheating would occur if a Cadet fraudulently acted out of self-interest or assisted another to do so with the intent to gain or to give an unfair advantage. Cheating includes such acts as plagiarism (presenting someone else's ideas, words, data, or work as one's own without documentation), misrepresentation (failing to document the assistance of another in the preparation, revision, or proofreading of an assignment), and using unauthorized notes.
STEALING: The wrongful taking, obtaining, or withholding by any means from the possession of the owner or any other person any money, personal property, article, or service of value of any kind, with intent to permanently deprive or defraud another person of the use and benefit of the property, or to appropriate it to either their own use or the use of any person other than the owner.
TOLERATION: Cadets violate the Honor Code by tolerating if they fail to report an unresolved incident with honor implications to proper authority within a reasonable length of time. "Proper authority " includes the Commandant, the Assistant Commandant, the Director of Military Training, the Athletic Director, a tactical officer, teacher or coach. A "reasonable length of time" is the time it takes to confront the Cadet candidate suspected of the honor violation and decide whether the incident was a misunderstanding or a possible violation of the Honor Code. A reasonable length of time is usually considered not to exceed 24 hours.
To have violated the honor code, a Cadet must have lied, cheated, stolen, or attempted to do so, or tolerated such action on the part of another Cadet. The procedural element of the Honor System examines the two elements that must be present for a Cadet to have committed an honor violation: the act and the intent to commit that act. The latter does not mean Intent to violate the Honor Code, but rather the Intent to commit the act itself.
Three rules of thumb
1. Does this action attempt to deceive anyone or allow anyone to be deceived?
2. Does this action gain or allow gain of a privilege or advantage to which I or someone else would not otherwise be entitled?
3. Would I be unsatisfied by the outcome if I were on the receiving end of this action?
History and relevance
"Although West Point did not formalize the Honor Code and system until the 1920s, the history of the honor code at the Academy goes back to its inception in 1802. The Code of Honor within the officer corps at the time was simply that an officer's word was his bond. When Sylvanus Thayer
Colonel and Brevet Brigadier General Sylvanus Thayer also known as "the Father of West Point" was an early superintendent of the United States Military Academy at West Point and an early advocate of engineering education in the United States.-Biography:Thayer was born in Braintree, Massachusetts,...
was the Superintendent in the 1820s, he focused on the principles of good scholarship and expressly forbade cheating. West Point treated allegations of stealing singularly under Army regulations through the 1920s."
"The first major step toward formalizing the unwritten Honor Code came in 1922 when the Superintendent, Brig. Gen. Douglas MacArthur
General of the Army Douglas MacArthur was an American general and field marshal of the Philippine Army. He was a Chief of Staff of the United States Army during the 1930s and played a prominent role in the Pacific theater during World War II. He received the Medal of Honor for his service in the...
, formed the Cadet Honor Committee to review all honor allegations.
In 1947, the Superintendent, Maj. Gen. Maxwell Taylor, drafted the first official Honor Code publication marking the beginning of the written “Cadet Honor Code.” However, the Cadet Honor Code did not formally include a “tolerate those who do” clause until 1970."
"The Honor Code provides a minimum standard of ethical behavior for cadets. This standard, as applied to fourth class development, is easy to live by and provides the foundation for further ethical development."
In August, 1951, Time Magazine reported that 90 of the Academy's 2,500 cadets were facing dismissal for mass violations of the honor code related to "cribbing," receiving the answers to exams ahead of time, allegedly through upperclass tutors who were assisting other cadets, mostly dedicated football players, to study for those exams. "
The Army arranged for an investigation headed by famed jurist, 79-year-old Judge Learned Hand. The investigating board recommended dismissal of all 90 suspected violators of the Honor Code, and while the Army and Congress debated the issue and its causes, the cadets were left with a cloud hanging over their heads and their futures.
There have been other instances of mass cheating scandals at the Academy, including one very famous one, in August 1976, where it was found that possibly over half of the junior class at the Academy had violated the honor code by cheating on a case assignment."
U.S. Air Force Academy
The Cadet Honor Code at the Air Force Academy, like that at West Point, is the cornerstone of a cadet's professional training and development — the minimum standard of ethical conduct that cadets expect of themselves and their fellow cadets. Air Force's honor code was developed and adopted by the Class of 1959, the first class to graduate from the Academy, and has been handed down to every subsequent class. The code adopted was based largely on West Point's Honor Code, but was modified slightly to its current wording:
- We will not lie, steal, or cheat, nor tolerate among us anyone who does.
In 1984, the Cadet Wing voted to add an "Honor Oath," which was to be taken by all cadets. The oath is administered to fourth class cadets (freshmen) when they are formally accepted into the Wing at the conclusion of Basic Cadet Training. The oath remains unchanged since its adoption in 1984, and consists of a statement of the code, followed by a resolution to live honorably:
- We will not lie, steal or cheat, nor tolerate among us anyone who does.
- Furthermore, I resolve to do my duty and to live honorably, so help me God.
Cadets are considered the "guardians and stewards" of the Code. Cadet honor representatives throughout the Wing oversee the honor system by conducting education classes and investigating possible honor incidents. Cadets throughout the Wing are expected to sit on Honor Boards as juries
A jury is a sworn body of people convened to render an impartial verdict officially submitted to them by a court, or to set a penalty or judgment. Modern juries tend to be found in courts to ascertain the guilt, or lack thereof, in a crime. In Anglophone jurisdictions, the verdict may be guilty,...
that determine whether their fellow cadets violated the code. Cadets also recommend sanctions for violations. Although the presumed sanction for a violation is disenrollment, mitigating factors may result in the violator being placed in a probationary status for some period of time. This "honor probation" is usually only reserved for cadets in their first two years at the Academy.
In popular culture
The 2005 ESPN
Entertainment and Sports Programming Network, commonly known as ESPN, is an American global cable television network focusing on sports-related programming including live and pre-taped event telecasts, sports talk shows, and other original programming....
made for TV movie Code Breakers was about the 1951 scandal in which 83 West Point Cadets were implicated in violations of the Cadet Honor Code in order to help the West Point football team
The Army Black Knights football program represents the United States Military Academy. Army was recognized as the national champions in 1944, 1945 and 1946....
. The film was nominated for two awards.