Community Council Update

By Emma Dunlap

On Monday Oct. 6, Community Council began a conversation around potentially expanding Middlebury’s honor code, specifically to implement a social honor code that would address academic integrity, and also social responsibility and behavior within the College community.

The social honor code would focus on respect between community members, including the relationship between students and Public Safety. Council Co-chairs Ben Bogin ’15 and Dean of Students Katy Smith Abbott recognized the Council’s interest in this topic and opened the floor up for discussion.

“I went to an institution with an old honor code that covered all aspects of student life. I think it does make sense to have that standard expressed across all aspects of student life,” said Associate Dean of the College Doug Adams.

Many council members expressed similar support for expanding the honor code, but many were unconvinced that a social honor code could be very effective due to the present lack of respect for the honor code.

“If students equate social honor code with academic code, this could devalue the academic honor code,” Blake Shapskinsky ’15 said.

Council members agreed that in many respects, the student body does not take the academic honor code seriously. One example was that a student is unlikely to turn in a peer for cheating.

There was an overall skepticism expressed by the students on the Council on the ability of a social honor code to be effective in changing the College culture surrounding honor and integrity.

Other members questioned the clarity of a “social honor code” and that it has too much room for interpretation and could create confusion.

“[Considering] how specific the academic honor code is, I don’t think you could apply this detail to a social honor code. And I don’t see how you could combine the two,” Katherine Brown’18 said.

Others thought the more comprehensive code would bring clarity.

“It is more consistent to have an honor code that expands over everything. A social honor code I would hope would increase awareness and force people to remember the academic honor code as well as increase respect with people like Public Safety,” Bogin said.

 “[a social honor code could] integrate values in the campus culture about speaking up and holding each other accountable for our actions,”  Helena Hlavaty ’16 said.

 On Monday Oct. 20 Bogin began the meeting with a proposal to potentially model Haverford College’s Honor Code Council, which publishes its proceedings when students are tried for honor code violations, while keeping the student anonymous.

“[This would] emphasize that there are serious repercussions if you break the honor code,” SGA President Taylor Custer ’15 said.

Later on, Hart Mechlin ’14.5 and the Director of Public Safety Elizabeth Burchard joined the meeting to provide their insights and experience to enhance the honor code discussion.

Mechlin came with proposals to address the tension between Public Safety and the student body as well as the overall disrespect that is often present during the interactions between students and officers.

Members agreed that many students only see the negative aspects associated with public safety, such as receiving citations and fail to recognize the positive contributions they provide to the College.