By Daisy Zhan ’20 and Lourdes Taylor ’21, 2018-2019 Honor Council Co-Chairs
Editor’s Note: This is a direct copy of the speech presented by Daisy and Lourdes at Spring Plenary on February 17, 2019. All ideas and facts are those of the Honor Council Co-Chairs and not the Clerk’s.
Daisy: We are speaking as the Honour Council Co-Chairs to update the Haverford community on the general state of the Honor Code, specifically focusing on how effectively the New Honor Code, which we ratified last academic year, has fulfilled its original intention, as well as how well the Haverford community has lived up to its expectation.
We do recognize the great improvements the new honor code intends to make for this community, which is creating a safe space for students of historically underrepresented or marginalized identities. We believe it is important and indeed a big step forward to explicitly have these values reflected on the Honor Code. Actually, from the cases honor council and the Community Outreach Multicultural Liaisons have received, more students are using us as a resource to assist their confrontations. However, the fact that values are explicitly put into words in the Honor Code does not mean they offer affective protection and warnings. Our first-hand insights working as Honor Council Co-Chairs urge us to acknowledge the fact that in many aspects, the New Code failed to change what it is expected to change.
First, some of the biggest changes of the New Honor Code advocate for equity and equal accessibility of academic spaces to students across all aspects of identity, and asks both students and professors to uphold these values. However, according to data kindly provided by the Clearness Committee, about 56% percent of student body have witnessed insensitive statements and behaviours from professors around issues of identity and trauma. In Honor Council trial meetings, there have also been several instances of professors being racist and xenophobic. Thus, this new portion in the New Honor Code that is supposed to make students of all identities safer in academic spaces failed its purpose.
Two other major changes of the new honour code are the broadened categories of discriminatory acts in the social code, and the diversified discourses of confrontation, to alleviate the burdens on and insecurities of the harmed parties of social code violations. Honour Council and the Multicultural Liaisons have received many cases regarding social code violations conducted by groups and clubs on this campus, which is a big shift comparing to dominant social cases of individual violations we received in the past. This trend tells us two sides of the story. One is that it reveals the institutional discrimination that has been existing on this campus, and that we still failed to suppress them under the New Honor Code. However, another side of the story is that the new system of confrontation provided harmed individuals more protections to bravely confront the improper acts of these powerful groups deeply embedded in this institutions. These institutional discriminations always exist, but now they may be more frequently brought under the jurisdiction of the Honor Code. Nevertheless, we want to acknowledge that there are also rampant discriminatory acts happening everyday and everywhere on this campus that are brought to neither Honor Council nor the Multicultural Liaisons. This reveals the fact that either under the new confrontational system, those harmed still feel burdened and unsafe, or there are many problems not stressed by the honor code, so people just do not pay attention to them.
Overall, we want to recognise that from the perspective of Honor Council, the new honour code, although with good intentions and some effects, still failed to provide enough support and protection for the marginalised students on this campus.
Lourdes: As Daisy articulated, there are many acts of discrimination that take place constantly on this campus that never receive attention. The Honor Code has been wildly exclusive to students of underrepresented backgrounds since its inception in 1897, simply because it exists in a school and a nation that flourishes on minority oppression. Given this, I am frustrated by how much focus and attention is paid to the Honor Code, in Haverford’s advertising, in plenary, in Customs and half the conversations on campus. Yes, it is good and important to critically, and even painstakingly consider our shared statement of values, because language is incredibly powerful. But why is the Honor Code the primary focus of our attention, when it’s obvious that the Honor Code itself is not at the root of Haverford’s issues? In addressing the state of the code, it is important to address that while the Honor Code is the manifestation of our campus, and moreover a function of it for Honor Council, there are pressing issues at Haverford that will never, and have not ever been solved at Plenary, or in limiting our conversations to the Code. I encourage us to think beyond the Honor Code, Student Government, and all of Haverford’s historic institutions, since before the 1970s, about 70% of us, on the basis of gender and race alone, would not have allowed in these seats as students.
This is not to say that students should become apathetic or less engaged with issues on our campus. Quite the opposite, in fact. In conversations about student engagement, “apathy” is often associated with a lack of attention to tradition, when this term is not accurate. It is not “apathetic” to focus one’s attention on social change that isn’t born out of plenary, or Honor Council, or clearness committee. While great and valuable things can come out of these groups, (if I do say so myself) we must stop perpetuating the idea that you have to be an HCO, run for Honor Council, become student Council president and befriend the school’s alumni to be engaged. It should not be more Haverfordian to attend plenary than to lead an affinity group. It should not be more Haverfordian to be on Honor Council than to take the time to recognize how you may be insensitive toward your peers. But it is, and this has created a social dynamic that has made it too easy to make the Honor Code a permanent placeholder for making lasting cultural change. Of course the code should be reevaluated, in fact, I’m a supporter of failing it pretty much every time we come to plenary. But do not let your presence here be confused with engagement. Many of us, who have sat in this room for hours many times before, or have served on a trial, or led a customs session, no matter how good those things may be, run the risk of being more apathetic to the actual problems on this campus than we realize. We implore everyone, in considering the code today and in the future, to think of AND beyond the Honor Code, so that we may actually create the “Haverford community” that has never fully actualized.
We hope these insights are helpful to you as we begin discussion and ratification of the Honor Code.
Thank you from Daisy and Lourdes, your Honor Council Co-Chairs.