Executive Committee responds to the “Questioning Honor” series

The past five issues of the Ring-tum Phi, concluding with today’s issue, have included articles aimed at educating our student body on the Honor System that we as W&L students hold so dear. The Executive Committee of the Student Body is extremely grateful to the Phi for providing a medium to spark this conversation. The EC has been working for a while to engage students in meaningful conversations about the Honor System, and we hope this series has enhanced our efforts.

While most of the information in the series is accurate, we would like to take this opportunity to make a few points about our System and our procedures. We would first like to clarify some points about the White Book. The White Book, which was actually first published in 1967, does not bind our community to an outdated system, but rather provides the EC with a procedural framework for investigations and hearings that is reviewed and amended at least every three years.

The White Book does not restrict Honor Violations to “lying, cheating, and stealing,” as some members of our community believe, and stands as a guide to our policy and the philosophy behind the community of trust we strive to uphold.

In addition to the series of news articles that aim to give information to the community, the Phi staff has written opinion pieces that primarily criticize the Honor System and members of the Executive Committee. While we believe criticism and skepticism is an important part of holding student government accountable, we would like to address some points made in those articles. The first is the opinion of the Ring-tum Phi Staff that the EC President acts like a “czar of sorts.” While the Phi clearly has taken issue with the way our system works, this is neither a constructive nor substantive criticism. The Executive Committee is composed of 13 elected members of our student body, and though the Phi honed in on the “sheer discretionary power” wielded – yet “not admit[tedly]” – by the President, he or she acts in conjunction with a 13-member body.

While we as individual students may be imperfect, a body of 13 students elected by their peers has upheld the administration of our Honor System for over a century, and we believe this is the most fair way to continue.

The Ring Tum Phi has often criticized the EC for protecting students involved in Honor System proceedings. We stand firm in our commitment to ensuring that confidentiality takes precedent over the “transparency” that would make information about accused students available to those outside the W&L community. The Phi asks “If nothing can be said about the specifics of [student body hearings], how do we as students know what is really going on?” The answer is for students to actively seek interaction with the Honor System. If there is an open business meeting, students should bring their questions and concerns. If there is a student body hearing, students should attend. If a student thinks of a way to create new, constructive conversations about the Honor System, those ideas should be shared with a member of the EC.

Likewise, the EC will as it should, continue to pursue any effort that makes students more involved in the system that sets our school apart from any other institution in the country. We are united as a student body in this effort and the EC looks forward to continuing to involve students in whatever efforts we can.