Life after accusation:
Inside Princeton’s Honor Code

Every year, dozens of students come before the Honor Committee. In interviews with eight of the accused, we chronicle a story of spiraling mental health, institutionalized alienation, and renewed hopes for reform.

By Marie-Rose Sheinerman and Claire Silberman | Nov 18, 2021
Web Design by Anika Maskara, Cover Photo by Angel Kuo

By Marie-Rose Sheinerman and Claire Silberman | Nov 17, 2021
Web Design by Anika Maskara
Cover Photo by Angel Kuo

Four days before last Christmas, a first-year student sat in a corner booth of the Mexican restaurant where his parents work, waiting to be admitted into a Zoom meeting that would stretch over seven hours. The meeting would mark the end of what he would later call “the hardest four weeks of my life.”

The student, who spoke with The Daily Princetonian on the condition of anonymity and will be referred to in this story as Leo, began his college career in the fall of 2020 as one of just around 300 undergraduates who met the University’s criteria for emergency on-campus housing. For the Latin American immigrant, whose family earns around a third of the University’s tuition cost in a year, the semester’s virtual format amplified the pre-existing challenges of entering Princeton as a first-generation low-income (FLI) student.

Prior to a summer at the University’s Freshman Scholars Institute, the highest level of math Leo had access to was precalculus. In the fall, he enrolled in an introductory math course. “I was doing okay in the class,” Leo said. “I was doing well on the problem sets.”

But in early December, his experience with the class took a turn. After the semester’s third exam, he received an email at around 5 p.m. from a member of the Honor Committee, informing him that he was under investigation and would be required to meet with the Committee that same night. Six hours later, at 11 p.m., he had his first meeting with the student investigators and learned he had been accused by his professor of collaborating with other students.

In a Zoom breakout room, a Peer Representative — a student volunteer charged with helping accused students through the process — told Leo not to speak too much. Anything Leo said could be used against him in a future trial, the student explained.

“I was very nervous,” Leo said. “I was having a little bit of a panic attack.” After the initial meeting, he was told by the Honor Committee members that his case would be moving forward.

On a campus populated by only six percent of the student body and constrained by social distancing regulations, the remainder of Leo’s semester would be colored by feelings of isolation, hopelessness, and shame, he told the ‘Prince.’

“I spent a lot of time locked in my dorm — sleeping, trying to gather evidence, crying,” he said. Most of Leo’s days were spent pouring over his notes for the class, doing and re-doing the problems for which he was accused, and collecting screenshots that could help prove his innocence. “I was losing my appetite,” he said. “I was having a hard time engaging with people or talking to other people.” With finals and paper deadlines around the corner, he was left with “really no energy or motivation.”

Throughout the entire affair, Leo felt he could not confide in anyone about the situation, least of all his parents.

“You’re scared of other people your age; you feel like they’re more powerful than you.”

Leo, anonymous student accused of an
Honor Code violation in Fall 2020

“College was the one way to help my parents and my family,” he said. “So to tell my mom that I might be suspended and I might not be able to come back to the school that I worked so hard to get into — I couldn’t do it.”

With the constant fear of a suspension hanging over him, Leo said he began to have suicidal thoughts.

Those thoughts followed him home, nearly three weeks after the initial email, to that restaurant booth on Dec. 21. Leo’s parents, a cook and waitress who lived in a mobile home at the time, had asked their employer if their son could use a booth and WiFi at the restaurant for an important meeting. They wouldn’t know what the meeting was about until it was over at 11 p.m. that night, when Leo was found “not responsible.”

The accusation Leo faced was one that dozens of Princetonians face each year — a violation of the Honor Code. Established in 1893, the code is outlined by University’s Rights, Rules, and Responsibilities handbook as an agreement between faculty and students to preserve academic integrity.

In exchange for unproctored examinations, students pledge their honor to refrain from giving or receiving unfair advantages. Under the Honor Code, students are also bound to report any alleged violations to the Honor Committee. All reported academic integrity violations for in-class exams are adjudicated by 15 students, some elected to class government and others appointed to serve by existing members. Notably, the Honor Committee is distinct from the Committee on Discipline, which evaluates academic integrity violations committed outside of the classroom, like plagiarism on papers.

Although the Honor Code has impacted generations of students at Princeton, the number of cases tripled during the COVID-19 pandemic compared to a typical year, according to Honor Committee Chair Wells Carson ’22. With the spike in cases came new challenges. The impact of accusations on student well-being was amplified by the isolating nature of the pandemic — and in the eyes of some students involved with the process, the Honor Code’s purported core principle of peer-to-peer responsibility was eroded by increased professor and administrator intervention.

According to Carson, all the incidents during the pandemic were reported by professors, marking a shift from the normal processes in which cases are primarily reported by fellow students. Almost all the cases came from economics, mathematics, or computer science courses, he said.

Despite the Code’s far-ranging impact on the course of students’ academic careers, the process regulating it remains murky to the vast majority who have never experienced it firsthand.

The ‘Prince’ spoke to eight students who have been through the disciplinary process (five of whom were accused during the virtual semesters), as well as the previous and current Honor Committee chairs, the Committee student clerk, two faculty members, two administrators, six past or current Peer Representatives, four alumni, and other individuals involved with the process. The ‘Prince’ also reviewed emails and documents provided by the students.

Most of the accused students spoke to the ‘Prince’ anonymously, expressing fear of consequences and stigma around honor violations. Nearly all reported experiencing a system that they felt presumed their guilt, severely harmed their mental health, and created long-lasting damage to their relationships with both the University and academia.

Asked about the impact of the Honor Code system on student well-being, Senior Associate Dean of Undergraduate Students Joyce Chen Shueh told the ‘Prince’ that the University takes care to connect students going through the process to mental health resources, including Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS), the Office of Religious Life, and their residential college staff. While the Honor Committee highlights University mental health resources in their initial email to students, Leo and others interviewed for this piece refrained from contacting CPS, due to lack familiarity with mental health supports and lack of trust in the University in the wake of their accusation.

Students “are expected to abide by our rules of conduct, both behavioral and academic,” Chen Shueh said in a lengthy statement. “While these are necessarily difficult conversations and processes, we strive to ensure that they are respectful, sensitive and fair.”

Chen Shueh claimed that violations looked different as a result of virtual learning, a trend many have pointed to across the country, given that “opportunities to seek help or input from others or to look at one’s notes or at internet resources (when not permitted) were available in ways they normally are not during an in-person exam.”

Isra Thange ’22 serves as co-chair of Peer Representatives, a volunteer student group that works to help students accused of an Honor Code violation.
Angel Kuo / The Daily Princetonian

To handle the increase in cases, and in light of ongoing implementation of 2019 reforms, the honor system saw new protocols. Historically, two students have been assigned to investigate each case before the initial hearing. But according to Peer Representatives Co-Chair Isra Thange ’22, the University’s Office of the Dean of the College (ODOC) began relying on private investigators — trained legal professionals — to help lead the evidence-gathering process during the fall of 2020.

These private investigators could open students’ Canvas records and IT files, according to Grace Masback ’21, the former co-chair of the Peer Representatives. Chen Shueh confirmed that investigators can “request information from instructors or OIT [Office of Information Technology] about students’ use of Blackboard or Canvas,” but cannot access students’ “documents located on their laptops unless a student is present and agrees to access their documents.”

The majority of cases during the COVID-19 semesters, including Leo’s, involved either accusations of collaboration or “use of unallowed notes.” But the virtual year proved challenging for collecting hard evidence. Without student witnesses in the “exam room,” the Honor Committee relied heavily on professor testimony. According to Masback, who oversaw or personally served as Peer Representative for most cases, professor accusations were often grounded in a suspicion that answers were too similar to come from different students — even as students insisted that the similarity stemmed from them having studied together, a permissible and even encouraged practice.

‘Past my breaking point’

For two students — referred to as Jen and Sophie throughout this story — an accusation of collaboration from a professor would lead to a hotel room panic attack, a 3 a.m. Zoom hearing, and what Jen would later call her “breaking point.”

Jen and Sophie are underclass students, friends, and varsity teammates. As first-years in the spring of 2021, the pair said they studied together for the final exam of their introductory economics course, using the same flashcards and quizzing each other as preparation. But shortly after finals, just as they were about to compete in a high-stakes athletic event, Jen and Sophie received word from an honor investigator that they had been accused of collaboration on the exam.

Jen, who told the ‘Prince’ she suffers from diagnosed anxiety, said she asked the investigators to postpone the initial meeting. After they refused, she said she joined a Zoom meeting with investigators in a hotel room between practices — and almost immediately felt that something was off.

At the meeting, the investigators repeatedly challenged her story, Jen said, recalling how they asked questions like “You really expect me to believe that?” in response to her account of how she had studied for the exam. Eventually, she said she started “visibly showing signs of distress.” After having a panic attack, Jen left the meeting.

“It bothered me that they didn’t recognize those signs before it built up to this point where I couldn’t handle it anymore,” she said. “They kept pushing me further and further.”

Chen Shueh maintains that this account does not represent the way University investigators typically conduct interviews. While the investigators’ questions may feel adversarial, “it is necessary for the investigator to obtain a detailed account of the student’s responses to the questions and concerns, clarify any inconsistencies, and review the information they have provided.”

She added that throughout the process, students are provided breaks if needed and that “if students with disabilities ask for accommodations during the process,” her office works with the Office of Disability Services “to make reasonable accommodations.” (Jen said she did not reach out to ODS, nor did the Committee offer her the option of doing so in their initial communication.)

In the days that followed, Jen said she received a slew of emails — and then text messages — asking her to schedule another meeting. When she didn’t respond, she said she discovered her coach had been informed of the accusations against her. (Asked about this claim, Chen Shueh said that “if a student is not responsive to a request to meet,” ODUS deans may reach out “to the coach to determine whether it is possible for the student to be available for the interview.”)

At the eventual hearing, Jen felt as though the investigators leveraged her mental health episode at the initial meeting as evidence of her guilt.

“They almost used the first meeting against me,” Jen said. “They said, like, ‘she couldn’t answer these questions, which is really suspect.’”

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, Sophie was video-conferencing into the same hearing from home — scheduled from 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. in her time zone, despite her objections. Sophie was on a strict training schedule and would start a workout at 6:30 a.m later that same day.

“How do you literally sit here and defend your place at the University, when you know we didn’t do anything wrong — at three in the morning?”

Sophie, anonymous student accused of an
Honor Code violation in Spring 2021

“It was a bit of a nightmare for me,” she told the ‘Prince.’ “How do you literally sit here and defend your place at the University, when you know we didn’t do anything wrong — at three in the morning?”

Chen Shueh said that last year the Honor Committee “encountered challenges with scheduling hearings when participants were in multiple time zones,” but that accused students were allowed to indicate a “preferred time” and that the hearing “would not have proceeded if the student did not propose or agree to a particular time slot.”

Ultimately, Jen and Sophie, like Leo, were found not responsible. And, according to Chen Shueh, “the overwhelming majority of students who are suspended as a result of academic integrity violations return to campus and successfully complete their studies.” But for Jen, Sophie, Leo, and the five other accused students the ‘Prince’ interviewed, the impact of their hearings lasted well beyond their final meetings with the Committee. Most reported that their experience permanently changed the way they approach their time at Princeton.

“I would definitely say it put kind of a stain on my view of here,” Jen said. “I was kind of stressed out to come back [to Princeton] just because I went through this agonizing time.”

Jen doesn’t study with teammates anymore, “which is sad, because I want to study with people, because that’s how I learn best,” she said. Similarly, Leo says he has “a lot of anxiety and fear” each time he turns in an assignment or an exam.

“It kind of soured my love of work and of school,” he told the ‘Prince’ around 10 months after the incident. “I’ve been in kind of an academic funk since then that I haven’t been able to break.” In part because he’s now “weary of the math department” and reluctant to take its courses, his trajectory at the University and plans for after graduation have changed.

‘I don’t feel at home here anymore’

Two students who returned this fall from an Honor Code suspension — referred to in this story as Nathan and Elena — likewise said their view of campus was warped by their experiences.

“I now entirely associate Princeton with the Honor Committee hearing,” Nathan told the ‘Prince.’ (Both Nathan and Elena maintain they were unjustly held responsible.)

“Even when I was away — even getting an email on my phone or seeing people post at Princeton, or literally just the word ‘Princeton’ — every single time, it brings me back to that and resurfaces that experience and that trauma for me,” he said. Like Leo, Nathan said the experience destroyed his love of learning and left him hypervigilant when completing assignments — more focused on “collecting evidence” in the case of a potential accusation than on the content of the material itself.

“I don’t feel at home here anymore,” Nathan said, months after the proceedings.

Elena said in an interview prior to the start of the term that she feared coming back to campus and the possibility of “going out and seeing someone who was on [her] Honor Committee panel” — tangible and persistent reminders of an experience that was “worldview changing.” As a student who had entered the Orange Bubble with joy and pride, she found it heartbreaking to feel herself “start hating Princeton.”

Leo said he feels it’s still taboo to speak publicly about violations. The combination of campus social stigma with the student-run Committee “pitting students against each other” creates discomfort for the accused, he argued.

“You’re scared of other people your age; you feel like they’re more powerful than you,” he said of the Honor Committee members. “You might be scared to interact with them, or even look at them because you know they’re on this committee that could get you suspended and taken away from the school. I think that power dynamic is really what makes it really hard to speak out.”

From Carson’s perspective, these sentiments make sense. At hearings, Carson said he often tells those found responsible, “If you need someone to blame, hate me. Hate me. Cuss me out all the time. Do anything you want.”

“It’s a really scary situation that is really awful and emotionally taxing, so I think it’s most likely probably triggering for them to see someone from the Honor Committee that was in their hearing,” Carson said of the students returning from suspensions. “I do my best to give them space. Like, I would never go talk to someone who’s come before the Committee.”

Honor Committee members frequently cry due to proceedings, Carson said, though they often discuss that “this is not our place” to process any difficult emotions involved.

“It’s a horrible process for everyone involved. We’re always looking for ways we can minimize that,” said Honor Committee Clerk Dylan Shapiro ’23, who plans to take over as chair next term. “But no one on the Committee kids themselves that it’s anything less than a deeply unpleasant process.”

“No one on the Committee kids themselves that it’s anything less than a deeply unpleasant process.”

Dylan Shapiro ’23, Honor Committee Clerk

Nathan said that the ongoing impacts of the experience extended beyond his relationship to academics and into the realm of his mental and physical health. In the three weeks surrounding the proceedings, Nathan lost 20 pounds.

“I did not sleep, my diet was irregular, I lost pretty much all of my hunger,” he said. “As a result of that, a few months after the hearing, I was diagnosed with severe depression, which I now receive medical treatment for,” he said. “I have to now regularly attend therapy in order to work through this trauma.”

Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) is housed under University Health Services.
Abby de Riel / The Daily Princetonian

Dr. Calvin Chin, the director of CPS, spoke with the ‘Prince’ about his experience counseling students in relation to the Honor Code. A lot of that job, as he put it, comes down to being a resource for students amid a process that “can feel really scary,” and discussing plans and management techniques for various potential outcomes of the hearing.

Violations of academic integrity, in his view, often come as “a cry for help.” Rarely does the violation come from malicious intent, Chin argued.

“It’s students who are feeling really overwhelmed by an assignment and they’re at their wit’s ends, and they’re really scared that they’re going to fail so they may impulsively decide to get help in a way that violates the Honor Code,” Chin said. “Or someone has been depressed for a long period of time and just hasn’t been able to focus or hasn’t been able to go to class, and they’re feeling really bad about themselves. And they almost choose to take an action that’s self-destructive but in keeping with how badly they feel about themselves.”

Asked about the extent to which a student’s mental health ought to play a role in the Honor Committee’s proceedings, Chen Shueh wrote that “a student’s stated mental stress while taking an exam or writing a paper is not considered a mitigating factor in the Committee’s determinations or outcomes.”

“To do otherwise would require highly subjective judgments that would, inevitably, result in different outcomes for the same infraction,” she wrote. “The adjudicating bodies must rely on an objective interpretation of the evidence presented in reaching conclusions and applying sanctions.”

A history of slow and unsteady progress

Stanley Katz, a Professor Emeritus who first came to Princeton in 1978, said that throughout his four decades at the school, he has come to see the Honor Code in a radically different light from administrators.

“We’re probably one of the earliest schools that adopted an Honor Code. And I think Princetonians who know about it tend to think it’s an admirable and distinctive part of the experience,” Katz said in an interview with the ‘Prince.’ “My own view is that those are students who haven’t thought about it very much.”

Katz, a decorated scholar of U.S. constitutional and legal history, said he believes the honor system is “overly punitive.” The iterative attempts at reform he’s witnessed, while at times reaching modest success, have ultimately left the structure in place.

At the Honor Code’s inception, the standard penalty for an academic integrity violation was expulsion. In 1921 came the first real attempt at reform, when leniency was introduced for “exceptional cases.” The next substantial revision would come five decades later, in 1974, when suspension was formally added as a disciplinary alternative.

Seven years later, in 1981, despite calls for change among the student body, the Honor Committee declined to hold an “open session” to hear suggestions for reforms, with one member telling the ‘Prince’ at the time the Committee had decided “not to seek to stir up more controversy right away.”

Two more efforts at reform similarly saw no results. In 1994, an Undergraduate Student Government (USG) referendum called for accused students to be given at least a seven-day period to prepare their defense. Although it gained 57 percent of the student vote, it failed to meet the 75 percent threshold for adoption. And in 2003, four Honor Code referenda made the USG ballot, but only one passed — allowing accused violators to bring a representative with them to hearings, thus paving the way for the creation of Peer Representatives.

More recently in 2018, referenda passed by the student body were not implemented immediately and instead remanded to the Committee on Examinations and Standing for faculty input. Having met the criteria outlined in the Honor Constitution for referenda, student activists felt deflated by the University’s inaction.

“You’re always fighting an uphill battle,” Micah Herskind ’19 told the ‘Prince’ about his experience advocating for change at the University. Throughout his Princeton career, Herskind protested, petitioned, and demonstrated on behalf of numerous activist causes. The 2018 attempts to reform the Honor Code were the only time in those four years where he felt the rules were on his side. When the referenda were remanded, he said, “They ended up throwing out that rule book.”

“There’s a process in place, we followed it to the tee, it was done, and even still, it didn’t matter,” Herskind said.

Yet some of the reforms he fought for later came to fruition. In response to the 2017 referenda, four committees convened and recommended adding alternate potential penalties — a reprimand and one-semester suspension — for certain violations.

Wells Carson ’22 serves as the Chair of the Honor Committee.
Angel Kuo / The Daily Princetonian

Even so, the Committee is cautious in adjudicating with leniency. Ultimately, the Honor Committee’s recommendation is non-binding, and the administration can overrule it. So, Carson said, “When we thought it would be accepted by the University, we tried our best to err on the side of disciplinary probation. But when we thought that it would not be accepted by the University, we assigned a one-semester suspension.”

The one recourse students found in violation are told they have is appealing the Committee’s decision through ODOC.

But according to several Peer Representatives, successful appeals are incredibly rare. Bobo Stankovikj ’20, a former chair of the group, estimated that one case in every five years was overturned. Masback and Ethan Thai ’21, also former chairs, could not recall a case that had been won on appeal. (ODOC does not release statistics on appeals, and Chen Shueh did not respond explicitly to an inquiry on the number of students who appeal each year and the number of appeals that are granted.)

The preparation of an appeal is itself an arduous process. According to Nathan and Elena, both of whom experienced it firsthand, appeals require students to repeat the same exhaustive evidence documentation they performed for their hearings.

“You have a student who was just found responsible,” Stankovikj said. “And you’re telling them that, by the way, try writing this type of document that you’ve never written before and that will also almost certainly get rejected. That’s weird. That’s an absurd system.”

Disproportionate impact on FLI students

One of the strongest criticisms leveraged against the Honor Code over the years points to how the system appears to put low-income students at a unique disadvantage. Leo said that, in his own experience, it felt as though the system “disproportionately affects students of color and FLI students.”

“Latinx and FLI students I’ve spoken with who have been called before the Committee discussed the extensive anxiety induced by the Committee’s initial phone call,” Soraya Morales Nuñez ’18 wrote in 2017 in a guest opinion piece for the ‘Prince.’ “Others who have testified before this Committee told me about experiencing severe intimidation as well as unnecessary mental and emotional distress at the hands of peers that walk the same halls as us.”

“I did not sleep, my diet was irregular, I lost pretty much all of my hunger. As a result of that, a few months after the hearing, I was diagnosed with severe depression, which I now receive medical treatment for.”

Nathan, anonymous student who returned to
campus this fall from an Honor Code suspension

Students receiving financial aid who are found responsible for an Honor Code violation also experience an added financial burden compared to students who pay full tuition.

“If you are required to repeat a semester for disciplinary reasons,” the University’s financial aid award terms state, “you will not be eligible for a University grant for the repeated term. Student loans may be requested to cover your need in this situation.”

Chen Shueh wrote that financial aid unused from the voided semester can carry over to the semester when a student re-enrolls, and that the “Financial Aid Office will work with them to extend loans to cover any shortfall.”

But for students like Leo, a semester without aid could have had dire consequences. “My parents at the time made under $25,000 a year,” he said. “If I were to be found guilty, I wouldn’t be able to come back to Princeton.”

Sociology professor Patricia Fernández-Kelly, who is often called to defend students accused of Honor Code violations, has witnessed this dynamic play out since 1998, when she arrived at Princeton and first noticed the unique impacts of Honor Committee proceedings on FLI students.

“Those are the families and these are the students who will actually suffer the most from these kinds of interruptions in their education,” she said. “Banishing students for a period of one year, when they are 18, 19, or 20 years old, is enormously harmful.”

Another group that may face disproportionate harms in the Honor Code process is varsity athletes. In the case of Jen and Sophie, both felt that their status as teammates played a key role in the accusation against them.

“The majority of the case against us was based on the fact that we were teammates and could have done it together or texted each other or whatever — even though there was no evidence of this,” Sophie said.

Fernández-Kelly said she’s also noticed a systemic disadvantage for athletes. In some cases she’s witnessed, she said she felt athletes had been stereotyped or treated differently.

On a case involving varsity teammates last fall, “the fact that they were athletes living in the same location was seen by the professor or the preceptors as possible indications of the likelihood of malfeasance,” Fernández-Kelly said. According to her, the University’s criteria and standards “would be laughed out of court of law in the United States of America.”

‘I felt like I had a moral obligation to the accused students’

In a system obscured by a lack of transparency, a seldom-successful appeals process, and anxiety-inducing procedures, COVID-19 and the honor system’s evolving policies seem to have only amplified pre-existing hardships for students who come before the Committee.

For those students, Peer Representatives felt like the only line of defense in helping them avoid suspension. For Peer Representative Abby Meyers ’22, that work is personal. In the spring of 2018, when Meyers was a first-year, she received a disciplinary suspension following an incident in a data science class.

“I didn’t have a Peer Representative. I didn’t have any assistance, mentorship, or guidance,” Meyers said, looking back. Despite having “absolutely zero clue” how to build her defense, she wrote her opening and closing statements alone. “I felt like there was no justice, there was no rationality within the system,” she said.

“I want people to have more grace with people who have been found in violation.”

CPS Director Dr. Calvin Chin

Meyers first received a letter from the Committee on Discipline notifying her that she was being investigated for academic misconduct while on vacation with her family. Left feeling ashamed and alone, she said she did not confide in her parents and attended the virtual meeting with the investigators at 5 a.m. her time, in secret.

By the end of the process, she faced a year-long suspension — and once back on campus, felt a renewed sense of purpose. “I thought, I need to help students who get accused,” Meyers said. “That’s kind of the motivation as to why I joined. And I’m happy I joined. I think we can make the Peer Reps better and more involved within the honor system.”

Claire Schmeller ’23 is the co-chair of Peer Representatives.
Angel Kuo / The Daily Princetonian

On Nov. 7, the Honor Constitution was amended to add explicit language codifying Peer Representatives as a part of the system. After three iterations of Peer Representatives’ leadership — from Stankovikj in 2019 to the current chairs, Thange and Claire Schmeller ’23 — the group has progressively seen greater success in developing working relationships with the Honor Committee Chairs, though their overarching goal remains unchanged.

“My first and most important goal is making students feel like they have power,” Schmeller said.

But despite this goal and the progress to date, being “honor coded” on campus still carries with it a lasting stigma and sense of shame.

“I think the hardest part about it all was telling people,” Meyers said. “When you go to Princeton, the #1 school in the world, you come in with expectation and some pride on your shoulders and a little ego. So when something like this happens to you, it’s a big weight you have to take off. So having to tell people so close to me, who admired me and what I did, that was very difficult.”

Chin, the CPS director, said he hopes the campus community can move away from a culture of shame around the issue and toward “a place where we could be more accepting of one another and less judgmental.” Publicly acknowledging experiences with the honor system among the student body, he hopes, “maybe will help the next student who’s feeling that same level of pressure” get the support they need.

“I want people to have more grace with people who have been found in violation,” Chin said.

For now, Chin’s hopes for the student body remain just that — hopes.

Until change comes, whether on a campus culture level or on a University level, some students who have worked within the system continue to question whether it should exist at all.

“If you believe that students are not intrinsically bad, that most academic violations are a result of the massive stress that Princeton creates, and admittedly, some bad decision making by students,” Stankovikj said, “then perhaps the entire structure of the honor system doesn’t need to exist in the way that it does right now.”


Marie-Rose Sheinerman is a senior writer who has reported on COVID-19 policy, faculty controversy, sexual harassment allegations, major donors, campus protests, and more. She can be reached at or on Twitter at @rosesheinerman. She previously served as a news and feature editor and presently assists with content strategy.

Claire Silberman is a senior writer who has covered USG, student activism, and graduate student affairs. She can be reached at She serves as Head Satire Editor and previously served as Head News Editor.