In Preparation for the Reed Union, Honor Council presents student, faculty musings on the Honor Principle
Honor Council is planning a Reed Union, ‘The Honor Spirit 100 Years Later: Can an Honor Principle Govern the Reed Community?’ The Union will take place on April 4 in Kaul Auditorium. We will begin with snacks and refreshments at 6pm.
In preparation for the Reed Union, we have been collecting commentaries on the Honor Principle from members of our community. We hope that these commentaries will help facilitate dialogue amongst Reedies and help focus the upcoming Reed Union.
Check out what your fellow community members think:
My thoughts on the Honor Principle
I believe that at its core the Honor Principle represents a reaction against certain behaviors: ones which promote personal satisfaction over collective concord. At Reed, we are a highly privileged community in the fact that our overarching regulatory system is one which assumes honesty and accountability, not criminality – thus, we can be governed by a system which holds the individual accountable for their choices.
In my opinion, the most potent form the Honor Principle takes is not in its ideological implications, but rather in the daily actions of every Reed community member. The HP does not systematically enforce, because it governs the individual and their behavior. It allows a Reedie to choose whether to steal the Mac sitting on an unattended library desk, or to leave it. Thus, the Honor Principle represents a somewhat radical idea in the space of governance – it is based solely on the freedom of choice. It leaves the individual accountable for the choices they make, and there is often no consequence for the quotidian violations of the principle on campus (stealing a commons cookie, borrowing laundry detergent, smoking in the SU) past the guilt or responsibility that one may feel. Deeply linked to this, though, is the idea that one should act in a manner that does no harm to oneself or others.
Is it dishonorable to commit violations of the Honor Principle that are “victimless”, then? Are AOD violations victimless because they represent an individual’s choice to engage in a given behavior? I think many Reedies see that there is an increasing degree of accountability on campus for dishonorable behavior, especially of the kind that poses harm to other community members – which some AOD violations do. One need only look at Cori’s CSO blotter to gain the sense that the Honor Principle is being interpreted very loosely by some Reed students. All moral and value judgments on drug and alcohol consumption aside, engaging with drugs and alcohol in a manner that harms or threatens oneself or others is a violation of the Honor Principle. Reed’s Drug and Alcohol Policy states that “drug or alcohol use that results in instances of behavior that are dangerous to the health or safety of the user, other members of the community, or adversely affects the institution as a whole, should be treated with exceptional concern and gravity”. Thus, every Reedie who makes the choice to engage with drugs and alcohol makes the simultaneous choice to engage with the Honor Principle, because the HP is college policy. Reed community members are expected to comply with said policy.
Behaving in a way which compromises one’s ability to act honorably (such as getting belligerently drunk) promotes personal satisfaction over the well-being of the community – something which the Honor Principle at its core is opposed to. By educating ourselves on explicit college policy (all of which is outlined in documents that can be found on SIN), we can allow ourselves to act more knowledgeably and thus potentially more honorably in our community.
The Honor Principle is an integral and precious system to the Reed community, as we all obviously know. But we have to engage with it in every choice we make if we want to keep it as our governing body, and that ultimately means making decisions which place the community’s well-being over our own desires. It is an intensely personal decision to make that requires a sizable amount of maturity and conscientiousness, but the reward is the privilege of being able to self-govern. I personally find it very worth it to make occasional sacrifices for the good of the community as a whole, but that choice is one that every individual Reedie must make.
A Response from a Reed Staff Member
I think the Honor Principle works both really well and not at all. I think that a lot of people do take it upon themselves to act honorably, and they are sure not to engage in actions that will harm the Reed Community and its members. Simultaneously, there are people who know that they are engaging in totally inappropriate behavior (smoking in dorms for example), who seem to either genuinely believe that their actions exist in a vacuum, or not to care about the impact their behavior may have on the greater community, the college’s relationship with its neighbors, local law enforcement, etc. I believe that for those who choose to follow the Honor Principle it works really well, but that those who don’t follow it screw things up for everyone else. The only real remedy I see for this dichotomy is for those who do follow the Honor Principle to bring more Honor Cases against those who do not. Hopefully, the dishonorable will be convinced to modify their behavior, but if not I think it should be made clear to them that their actions necessitate their exclusion from the community. If you chose not to be part of the community (by not abiding by the community norms), you should not be on campus/attending Reed.
We would love to hear from you too. We welcome responses of any length and you may discuss the Honor Principle in any way you like.
Some specifics to consider including:
What role do you feel the Honor Principle plays in the day-to-day lives of Reedies?
How can the Reed community better interact with the Honor Principle? Which members of the Reed community bear the onus of these changes?
What role do you see for the Honor Principle in Reed’s future?
We encourage you to speak honestly about your opinions. We are hoping to publish these responses in the Quest and encourage anyone to submit responses directly to the Quest or to Honor Council email@example.com. Furthermore, if you would like to respond, but wish to keep your response privy to Honor Council, you can send it directly to us and let us know that you would like it kept confidential. We are deeply appreciative of your feedback and we hope that you feel free to stop by our office hours (Sunday-Thursday from 5-6pm in GCC-033A) or contact us anytime if you have questions.
Have a great and Honorable day!