Honor Code reforms should be available and understandable for all

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September 29, 2011

10:29 PM

Although it has not been highly publicized, the College of William and Mary has created the Honors System Review Committee to discuss and recommend changes to the Honor Code, which has not been revised since its last review in 1997. The Committee will present for public discussion a draft of the proposed changes by fall break.

Personally, I believe the Honor Code is an integral part of the academic structure here at the College and something that sets us apart from many other institutions of higher education. As such, I applaud the initiative taken to review the code in order to address issues that have arisen since 1997 as a result of the wording of the current statutes.

In regard to presenting a draft for public discussion, I do question to what extent these proposed changes will be publicized. The Honor Code and Honor Council, at least in my own experience, seem to operate outside of the focus of many students, and the poor participation in Honor Council elections is indicative of the lack of involvement by the student body as a whole. Consequently, I imagine that a small minority of students, administrative officials and faculty are drafting the proposed changes, and the input received on the draft to be presented to College President Taylor Reveley will come mainly from this same minority of students who feel they have a personal investment in the outcome of these changes.

The meetings to review the Honor Code are open to the public, but I would guess that attendance is not very high. The provisions of the current Honor Code are also available on the College’s website, but I doubt many students want to spend their free time between midterms gaining a better understanding of its intricacies.

The easiest retort to my statements is that the burden of understanding the code and the proposed changes is on each individual student, which I indeed agree with. The only thing that I would ask of the Review Committee is to present the proposed changes in a brief and easy-to-understand fashion. Providing clarity in layman’s terms will create more transparency and allow more students to provide input, which in turn will make the changes more effective.

Because the Honor Code is such an integral part of the College’s academic system, publicizing these changes in multiple formats will help to reach a greater portion of the campus. One email with a survey will only get lost in the multitudes of emails students receive on a daily basis. I would recommend public posting of the changes, short question-and-answer sessions about the changes, and postings in Student Happenings. All three of these methods working in tandem will allow students to educate themselves more convienently on the changes and to provide valuable feedback to the Committee and Reveley.

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