Below is a transcript of the State of the Code speech given by Honor Council Co-heads Sophia Kaplan ’23 and Matt Dodds ’22 at Spring Plenary 2022
SOPHIA: Hello friends. We are speaking to you as the Honor Council Co-Chairs to provide our yearly update on the State of the Code and the implementation of the Spring 2021 changes to the Honor Code. Today, we will speak to two broad ideas: 1) how the 2021 Code revisions have facilitated the transition of Honor Council’s work to better actualize a restorative justice approach, and 2) the importance of our communal work at Plenary – to rearticulate and reaffirm our common commitment to a set of principles and values, principles and values that allow our community to be governed by the foundational (and hopefully enduring) ideas of trust, concern, and respect. In advance of our comments, we must cite our sources – much of what we will discuss is not our ideas and language alone, but the collective efforts of generations of our community’s writers, thinkers, and leaders.
This Spring’s Plenary marks one year since the student body’s ratification of a set of resolutions that sought to reconstruct the language of the Social and Academic Codes in order to transform the impact of the Honor Code on Haverford’s campus. Inspired by the cumulative, profoundly historic labor of the Fall 2020 strike organizers, the authors of the BSFRI open letter, Aretha Williams ‘96, and countless other BIPOC students and alumni, that effort strove for a better, more inclusive Code.
MATT: The changes to the Social Code sought to support marginalized students and eliminate language which allowed for the weaponization of the Code and its ideals of trust, concern, and respect. The resolution took the Social Code seriously as an expression of our expectations for living in community with one another, and its changes intended to ensure that the Social Code can be relied upon as foundational to and affirming of a culture of support for one another where students can feel safe and can thrive.
The changes to the Academic Code centered around eliminating punitive aspects of how past Codes perceived and handled breaches of academic integrity. Revision also emphasized that the culture of empathy we strive for as a community pertains not just to our interactions with one another in social situations, but in academic settings as well. Separation from the community, previously the expectation in any case of plagiarism, is now discouraged as an Honor Council trial resolution in all but the most egregious, deliberate cases of breached trust.
In addition, changes were made to confrontation in order to better protect harmed parties, with the goal of making confrontation something students feel comfortable engaging in and can expect to yield restorative results. The Social Trial process was likewise changed with the same goals of facilitating accessible and reparative proceedings which harmed parties can feel ownership over and be empowered by.
SOPHIA: Our time together today is not just to reflect on what has happened in the past, but also to pronounce our expectations for the future. For 135 years, our student body has agreed to be self-governed by a living document. Haverford College is set apart and in part defined by the Honor Code. It is an ideal that the community continuously strives for – the Code is not perfect and neither are we, and yet for over a century, Haverford students have chosen to be stewards of an express set of expectations and to better those expectations time and again. Thus, Plenary is not just about rewriting words in the present, but actualizing a monumental tradition that makes our community unique. As we engage with the Code throughout the ratification process, we hope you will remember that our actions do not exist in a vacuum, but are the realization of generations of deep thought and close attention.
But the endurance of this collective identity is dependent upon the current student body continuing to buy into the Code and our tradition of self governance. The Honor Code is only as legitimate and binding as we decide to believe it is. The Code cannot prescribe integrity, or dialogue, or respect. It is not a set of rules, and only works in practice when we confront others (personally or through trusted advocates) if we feel their actions or words have violated community values, and when we see this confrontation as an opportunity for communication and growth. It is an ideal that the community continuously strives for, and to which we continuously reaffirm our commitment through ratification every year.
MATT: Should we vote to open ratification in the next few minutes, you will have the time between now and Wednesday afternoon to consider the Honor Code at present and what it could be in the future. We ask that you take the time to reflect upon what the Code means for you as well as what it could mean, what it has the potential to represent for your life at Haverford and for Haverford as whole. The Honor Code, and our community’s commitment to self-governance, is a site of both tradition and possibility, a legacy and a never-finished project.
Before we conclude, we would like to offer one last remark. The communal expectations presented in the Code are neither isolated to nor necessarily best actualized in spaces of student governance. To be a Haverford student who lives by our collective ideals can mean whatever you want it to mean; a community centered around outlined expectations must and will always manifest in diverse and complicated ways. While we hope you find the Code a helpful foundational document, the continual work of actualizing a community in common commitment to trust, concern, and respect neither ends with it nor ends here.
SOPHIA: We thank you all for engaging in this process and hope you found these thoughts helpful in considering opening Honor Code ratification.