While manning the table at the Honor Code Open House this past Thursday, I was questioned by a student as to what the event was all about.
I explained that we hoped to raise awareness of academic integrity on campus and to encourage discussion of the Honor Code. My explanation caught the student off-guard; he looked at me rather puzzled and said, “I didn’t know the Honor Council did anything besides punish people.”
Now I was the one caught off-guard.
As someone who has been a member of the Honor Council since my first year at Union, it was quite surprising to hear what non-members thought of the council. Even more surprising was the description of our activities as “punishing people.”
While we do assign sanctions for violations of Union’s academic Honor Code, this is only a small portion of what the council does. Cases are not rushed through the system in order to assign a punishment as fast as possible.
Instead, the council reviews evidence, interviews students and faculty and ultimately moderates among students and professors in potential issues of academic honesty.
It is not our goal to dole out consequences for students’ missteps; on the contrary, we hope to educate the campus on the necessity of academic honesty and to help students grow intellectually.
However, in no way do I blame the student for thinking that our sole mission is to “punish people.” From an outsider’s perspective, the Honor Council can appear strictly as a disciplinary body. It may seem as if the council is just waiting for students to make a mistake.
While I admit that this is partly due to the way in which the Honor Council operates, having to manage the concerns of confidentiality, I cannot deny that this is also in part due to the culture at Union.
At Union, having an Honor Code is viewed by many as an inconvenience, even a hindrance. Signing the pledge becomes a chore. Submitting work under the Honor Code feels something like a strip search. Few recognize that Union’s Honor Code is a privilege.
Yes, a privilege. It is a privilege to live in a community that values honorability, integrity and one’s accomplishments. It is a privilege to engage in a contract of trust with professors and administrators. It is a privilege to have a voice in shaping the culture of this campus, in determining what is fair and what is not and in defining how those outside Union weight the Union degree.
So next time you sign the Honor Code Affirmation, sign it with pride.
Realize that in committing your name to a piece of work, you take ownership for your intellectual ideas and show your professors what you are capable of. Be proud of the community you inhabit, and take an active role in shaping the culture of this school that we love so much.