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Alumni React to “The Tempest”

The Honor Council abstract “The Tempest,” has provoked a range of reactions from the student body as well as from professors and alumni since its release in early November.

A Clerk article about the trial was circulated and discussed among many alumni on Facebook, Twitter and in a discussion on an unofficial LinkedIn group page.

The case involves a student who logged into Moodle using a grader’s password to alter both his grades and grades of fellow classmates.  Among the final resolutions arrived at by the jury for the violation was the first permanent separation of the confronted party from Haverford College.

One part of the abstract that struck many older Haverford affiliates was the technological advancements that made such a violation possible.

“The worst cheating that happened in my day could have happened a century earlier:  simply copying someone else’s paper, maybe outsourcing it, looking over a shoulder, possibly getting an advance copy of an exam from a careless teacher. Now the opportunities are much richer,” said Roger Lane, a Professor Emeritus of History who taught at Haverford from 1963 to 2001.

John Hough ‘68 expressed similar views regarding advancements in technology since his years as a student.  He admitted that he is “too tech-unsavvy to understand what the confronted party did,” though the unprecedented nature of the separation “baffled” him nonetheless.

Many alumni questioned the jury’s decision to permanently separate the confronted party in “The Tempest.” The jury explicitly addressed this aspect in its letter to the community, stating that “the resolution of permanent separation is uncharacteristic of Honor Council trials, and may be a shock and source of disagreement in the community.” After deliberation the jury concluded that the degree of offenses necessitated either permanent separation or effective permanent separation, ultimately deciding on the former.

Jack Shepherd ’60, now a Professor of Political Science at Dartmouth College, echoed the statements made by the jury.

“The Honor Code violation cited was horrific and the ensuing outcome the only one acceptable,” he said.

Shepherd also referenced a cheating case from his time at Haverford that prompted the temporary dismissal of 10-15 students.

“I see the two current cases as affirmation that the Honor Code is working within the Haverford community, and that it remains as strong as it was more than half a century ago,” Shepherd added.

Alumnus Gerry Lederer ’60 provided a slightly different perspective. Lederer, currently an attorney for Best Best & Krieger LLP’s Municipal Law practice group, did not become involved with Honor Council until his very last week as a Haverford student, when he served on a jury for a case addressing cheating. Though initially loath to be spending senior week in this way, he said that it proved to be “one of the most rewarding experiences of my four years at Haverford.”

The resolutions of Lederer’s case, however, permitted the confronted student to return to campus following a hiatus lasting a few years, upon which he became a “model student,” Lederer said.  While emphasizing that he understood the reasons for the jury’s decision, Lederer said that he most likely would have stood outside consensus for “The Tempest” and would have supported a type of readmission process such as the one used in the “Amelia Earhart” abstract.

“I could not support a “death penalty” of a permanent denial of access to the Haverford Community,” Lederer said.

Although not officially instituted until 1896, the Honor Code emerged when the freshmen class of 1887 challenged President Isaac Sharpless to hold exams on an honor basis. This practice was later adopted for all classes, thereby contributing to the academic and social sense of camaraderie that still exists among both current and former members of the Haverford community today.

“[The reaction] illustrates that we have accepted and incorporated the Honor Code into our daily adult lives,” Shepherd stated.  “It shows that we care about it as a moral standard for all of us.”

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