Students at Washington and Lee love telling people about the Honor System. And I get it, I do the same. It is something we all have the right to be proud of, because our Honor System is so unique and ingrained in the fabric of this university. But after almost three years of having these same peers ask me to clarify what a “hearing advisor” is, what the specifics of our “honor code” are, and even “What is the White Book?” I’ve lost patience.
I have no problem answering my friends’ questions about the Honor System. In fact, I think more discussion about it on our campus would be wonderful. It is just frustrating when it becomes clear that so many students really don’t know anything more than: “No lying, cheating, or stealing.”
Has the student body always been so clueless, so apathetic?
I recognize that I may be coming off as blunt; harsh, even. But, the Honor System is an integral part of Washington and Lee’s identity. If you ask students to list reasons why they chose to attend school here, most of them–if not all–will mention the Honor System.
It should not be outrageous to hold students to a high standard when it comes to having an understanding of a self-governed honor system. The Executive Committee does an incredible job with Honor Orientation and shouldn’t have to spoon feed the student body more information, but I feel there is something left to be desired with the discussion of our Honor System during Orientation Week. There should be something that the students should be responsible for in regard to rounding out their understanding of the Honor System.
The White Book is one of the most important documents at Washington and Lee. It establishes that honor matters are to be adjudicated by students. The White Book lays out the Honor System, the procedures required in honor matters, establishes the role of Hearing Advisors and lays out the process for amending itself. The White Book is the physical manifestation of the very foundation of our Honor System. If students don’t know the White Book, they don’t fully understand the Honor System.
New students are tasked with signing their name in a book in Lee Chapel to state that they agree to uphold the Honor System. But how can students uphold the Honor System if they do not have a full understanding of it?
Maybe I am one of the few students who cares about truly knowing this information. However, I get the feeling that is not the case.
I have faith in the student body as a whole that we all care about the White Book and the Honor System, and its particulars have just happened to fall by the wayside.
So I call for the White Book to be mandatory reading for incoming first-year students and transfer students. Orientation Week already consists of a required reading followed by discussion, so adapting this structure for this purpose is simple. The White Book is a quick read, easily comprehensible, and an excellent resource in developing a well rounded understanding of our Honor System. We should all have to read it.