Honor Council and J-Board Go to an Honor Conference! Or, Why I’m Glad I Go to Reed

by frankiebreedlove

HamiltonCollegeHC HCandJBoard JBoardHamilitonCollege

On a warm evening in late September Katie, Evvy, Elisa, and I packed our bags and made our way to the airport. Katie and Evvy, members of J-Board, and Elisa and I, members of Honor Council, excitedly chatted about the possibilities of the weekend ahead. The four of us were headed to Hamilton College in Clinton, New York for a conference to discuss the different Honor Codes (or Principle) that other small, liberal arts schools abide by. The other schools in attendance were Union, Haverford, Davidson and of course Hamilton as host.

After two long flights, the thrill of being legally allowed to rent a car, and a nap we made it to the Hamilton campus for an opening dinner. Each school gave a brief presentation about what their Honor Codes looked like and we tried our best to explain the nuances of our Honor Principle. It became immediately clear to me, and my companions, that the other systems were very different from ours at Reed. Some schools had Honor Codes that encompassed only academic life and thus their judicial bodies (called Honor Council confusingly) only dealt with cases pertaining to academic misconduct. These schools had other bodies and systems to deal with interpersonal or community level conflicts. Other schools like Reed, had a system that included the entirety of campus life from the social to the academic.

Clearly, there were many differences and nuances to learn from each other and our first dinner turned into: “Oh you do it like that? Here’s how we do it!” It was very interesting for me as an Honor Councillor to hear Evvy and Katie field questions about our judicial process at Reed. What caught my attention most of all though, was the fact that none of these schools had a body similar to Reed’s Honor Council: a body dedicated to educating, advising, mediating with regard to the Honor Principle. The other folks at the conference were representing their adjudicating bodies, similar to our J-Board. In this, and in many other ways that I learned that weekend, Reed is utterly unique.

The next day we attended panels discussing topics about educating our community on the Honor Principle, how students do or do not “enforce and participate in the code”, the pros and cons of academic-only vs academic and social honor codes, and what types of sanctions are applied when necessary. In each of these discussions I came away with an appreciation for the other students at the conference as they described their systems with eloquence and passion. I heard many amazing ideas of how to increase student involvement and I got a sense for what we are doing right, and wrong, at Reed. However, I was disappointed that inevitably each conversation dwelled on academic misconduct and, in my opinion, procedural minutia. My hope for the conference was to be able to talk about what Honor means to people at each of these institutions but my questions were often rebuffed with talk about “the code states x.” I think my companions felt equally frustrated as they attempted to start discussions about student autonomy and the importance of complying with federal regulations.

Ultimately, my experience at this conference renewed my love for Reed’s Honor Principle. We have problems but I feel hopeful that we can tackle them honorably and as a community. I’m so grateful that Reed affords us, as students, insane amounts of autonomy and that our opinions as students are taken seriously. I’m grateful that Reedies feel equally passionate about this and fight for it each year. I’m grateful that I can define honor for myself. I’m grateful that I’m required to constantly be checking myself and owning up to my dishonorable actions. I’m grateful for Reed. All this being said, I’m grateful for the opportunity to attend this conference and I believe that the Honor Codes at the other institutions work amazingly well. It’s my hope we can collaborate with other schools in the future and continue a dialogue about honor beyond Reed.