The Student News Site of Mayfield Senior School

The Mayfield Crier

The Student News Site of Mayfield Senior School

The Mayfield Crier

The Student News Site of Mayfield Senior School

The Mayfield Crier

The Fight to Choose the Honorable Path



The test is finally over. Students stream out of the classroom and are immediately bombarded with their classmates’ questions: “What was on the test?”, “What were the questions?”, “Was it easy?”.

Students face high expectations set by their parents, teachers, colleges, and most often, themselves. With all this inflicted pressure, it appears that a B has become the new F, and there is a persistent need for perfection and control. With overbooked schedules and not enough time in the day, students often ponder: to cheat or not to cheat?

Academic integrity means being genuine, real, accountable, and turning in work that ultimately reflects personal knowledge and understanding.

“In a place like Mayfield with such high expectations, when someone does break the Honor Code, it is especially disappointing and hurtful to teachers and other students when trust is violated,” said Dean of Students Michelle Gergen.

Mayfield’s current Honor Code was established in the late 1990s when Ann Babcock, a previous math teacher, presented the idea at a faculty meeting. Unspoken expectations were already embedded in Mayfield’s culture, but following several infractions, it was necessary to be more specific.

In developing the Honor Code, Mayfield also created an Honor Council, made up of faculty and students, who help preserve academic and personal integrity.

“I am able to see different girls learn from their mistakes and consequently grow,” said senior Lara Sassounian, a member of Honor Council since freshman year.

The Honor Council provides a student perspective when breaches of the Honor Code occur. A few years ago, a student took a picture of the whiteboard with her smartphone, and the perturbed faculty saw this as cheating. The Honor Council, however, provided student insight, showing teachers that it was simply a different means of taking notes.

Mayfield also aims to have age appropriate repercussions for Honor Code violations and tries to instill in students the importance of honor and integrity to carry with them for the rest of their lives.

Cheating at Mayfield has serious repercussions, but out in college and in the real world the consequences grow exponentially. For example, at many colleges, one case of plagiarism can result in expulsion.

Cheating can stem from a fear of failing or making mistakes, but as we are commonly told, failing is a crucial part of learning and growth.

“If a student gets the right answer and if another student copies, maybe they are learning; but if a student copies an incorrect answer or they just want to get it down, then there is no learning at all,” said chemistry teacher Lisa Larson.

Larson described her experience with cheating while in high school. Larson discovered that her best friend was handing in plagiarized essays and said of the experience, “It was a deal breaker. I couldn’t be friends with someone who cuts corners. What if I really needed her?”

Academic integrity is connected to a person’s overall honor and ethics.

“At the end of the day, all you have is your integrity, in relationships and with who you are. It is an important piece of yourself you have to hold on to. Otherwise, you give yourself permission to compromise everything,” said Assistant Head of School Lisa Brunolli.

Trust is at the foundation of strong relationships, and cheating can fragment relationships with teachers, classmates, and parents. Students are trusted to be honest and do their best, teachers are trusted to help, and the administration is trusted to set and enforce guidelines. Peer pressure can also be detrimental to this trust; if a friend badgers another friend for their homework, which forces people into a corner.

Modern society seems to encourage shortcuts with businesses cutting corners and celebrities in the spotlight seemingly handed everything on a golden platter. This golden platter may be distracting and certainly enticing, but the end does not justify the means.

In some cases, students cannot take full blame for breaches in academic integrity; it is a two way street with teachers. Teachers can have considerable influence over their classroom, including developing assignments, offering clear instructions, setting firm classroom expectations, and overall facilitating communication between their students and themselves.

English teacher Joan Sinclair tries to minimize the temptation to cheat through letting students choose topics they care about or by structuring assignments so that students are not strained for time to complete them.

“When teaching three sections, the first section complained how the other blocks would always bug them for the answers. Just telling me there was an issue was all the information I needed to change class procedure so there are now different quizzes on different days in AP Literature,” said Sinclair.

Ultimately, Mayfield students know right from wrong, but it is important to keep remembering to actually choose the honorable path.

Photograph: Members of the Honors Council (left to right): Lara Sassounian ’14, Katherine Tighe ’16, Rachel Wiggins ’15, and Cady Stark ’14.