Update Honor Code

Chronicle Staff

I see a copy of it every day as I climb the steps to Munger — the wood is chipped and the green ink around the phrases that make up the Honor Code is fading and runs over the words. Anybody who sees the plaque probably thinks it’s been there since it was drafted in 1995.

While I’ve seen it out of the corner of my eye, I don’t think I’ve ever been driven to read it before, and was only driven now out of indignation after the school passed its new “accountability requirements” for the technology Acceptable Use Policy. I wanted to see how the administration planned on morally justifying the new rule, and I had assumed that the school would base the decision on the Code. My only thought building from that idea was that this was not the Honor Code that I signed up for in seventh grade, one that tries to control what we do off school grounds.

So you can imagine my surprise when I read it over and discovered that it’s exactly what I subscribed to.

It’s easy to see how the school can say they’re ethically justified in changing the acceptable use policy: a vague blanket statement runs about halfway through the code that talks about harming “the person of the school.” And since the Honor Code is a student-written document signed by students, of course we should respect those rules.

The problem, though, is right there. Anyone can talk about how the Honor Code is student-written, but those students were on campus over 15 years ago. How many current students have any connection to the original writers? As the recent Honor Code town halls put on by the Prefecture have shown, very few members of the current student body feel a connection to the Code anymore.

Yes, we all signed a copy in seventh or ninth grade, but for this year’s seniors, the first class to have everyone sign the Code, our standards of trust and honor have changed. The document that we signed before most of us ever took a formal class here has been forgotten.

We need a new Honor Code, and not just this year or next year, but every school year. It’s the best way to make sure that we are all attached to the document that commands the attention and respect of a constantly changing student body.

In the spring of each year, the current ninth, 10th and 11th grade classes could elect two students from their grade outside of the Prefecture to draft a new Code that feels relevant to the next year’s upper school students. They could then submit it to their electors for approval, and if the majority favors it, then that’s next year’s code. It doesn’t matter if all the group does is change a word here or there, or take the ideas shared in the town hall meetings and start from scratch. As long as the students feel that the new Code accurately reflects how they want their rules to look, it’s fine.