Catholic University Law Review


Legal processes dominate many honor systems at schools and universities. The negative impacts of this legal saturation include time-consuming, overly burdensome, and seldom understood honor systems as well as a shift of student focus from compliance with honor codes to a fixation on exoneration, given the increased opportunity for fighting and defeating honor allegations using legal recourses. This article is a clarion call for higher education immediate action: schools must scrutinize their honor systems to ensure they are legally efficient, not legally saturated. Authors of books and law journal articles have meticulously reviewed the academic honor system history and legal case precedent this article summarizes. None of them, however, have concluded schools have the latitude to curb and reduce legal excesses and that society’s increasing litigiousness demands immediate attention to reverse the corresponding trend within higher education honor systems.

This article emphasizes the urgency of the situation and interprets the sometimes erratic but mostly forgiving judicial treatment of academic honor systems as a sign that there is latitude to reduce legal surpluses. Acknowledging that varying institutional missions prevent uniformly recommended changes, this article posits several legal theories to help schools recognize their leeway to make changes. The Constitution demands protection of students’ due process rights. However, when legally burdensome honor systems impede swift justice and fail to inspire honorable living, it is high time for institutional introspection and change to help form more perfect and effective honor systems and better balance the interests of students and educational institutions.