On My Honor

By Guest Contributor

Three weeks ago I found my bike in a bush. I had locked the wheel to the frame, but not the bike rack. Someone had thrown my bike into a bush. This wasn’t an isolated incident. Two other friends have had their bikes thrown into bushes. Now when I walk by all of the bikes are locked to the rack. I would love to live in a community where that wasn’t necessary. I would love to live in a place where I could leave my bike locked to itself, or better yet, leave it unlocked. I believe that’s a possibility. 

To most people, the Honor Code means “I won’t cheat.” That’s a pretty low standard for honor. I’d like to raise that bar. And let me start by saying that I hope I don’t come across as the holier-than-thou, honorable Ben Bogin. I am not. But I think that for students who aspire to a high standard (as we Middkids usually do), the Honor Code falls woefully short. I want our Honor Code to mean, “I will live with integrity at Middlebury, and treat all people with respect.” Then maybe people would stop throwing bikes into bushes.

Some have said we should give up on the Honor Code. We could go back to proctored tests and leaving our backpacks at the door. But I would be incredibly disappointed to give up honor as a value at Middlebury. I’d like to keep working on the Honor Code so that we don’t have to admit defeat. After discussing the issues and researching what other schools do, I’d like to propose the following ideas.

First, I’d like the Judicial Board to publish summaries of hearings online for the Middlebury Community. The names of students and professors would be redacted, and any participant in a hearing could request that the summary be delayed. One goal is to provide transparency to the judicial process for both students and professors. I also want students to feel connected to the Honor Code hearings on a personal level. I recently read Judicial Board files from a peer institution, and the experience caused me to reflect on my own experiences and actions. I want our whole community to experience the same thing. I want people to talk about the Honor Code as much as they wax poetic about chicken parm.

Second, I want to change the Honor Code statement to “I have neither given nor received unauthorized aid on this assignment, nor have I seen dishonest work.” Not that students should let their vigilance detract from their test. But every time we sign the honor code, we’ll remember that witnessing a violation makes it our responsibility to report it. I understand that this situation feels uncomfortable, and it is.  But this discomfort is the price we pay for the privilege of self-proctored exams. And isn’t that what we’re doing here? Stretching our comfort zones, thinking about ethical problems and finding who we really are?

Third, I want to add the Community Standards to the Honor Code. Right now we have a de facto Academic Honor Code. The word “Academic” isn’t technically at the front, but the code only applies when taking a test. I think that the Honor Code should apply everywhere, all the time. And I want to add a section with the following language: “Anyone witnessing a violation of the Community Standards is morally obligated to confront that person.” And notice that I’m not saying we should all be turning each other in to Pub Safe. I just want to live in a community where if people saw someone throwing a bike into a bush, they would take the time to ask if the bush had offended that person in some way.

I want to elevate the Honor Code so that it means more than don’t cheat. I want it to force students to think about what it means to live here in a community, and what it means to work and play with integrity and respect. These ideas are going to take your support. I’d love to know what you think. Let me know as I wander through Proctor looking for friends, or as I stumble, bleary-eyed, out of my many 8am classes (I know, they’re rough). Or send me an email at bbogin@middlebury.edu.

Artwork by RUBI SAAVEDRA

BEN BOGIN ’15 is from Larkspur, Calif.

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