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End the Apathy: The Honor Code and the DC

As is reaffirmed every year, the Haverford Honor Code purports to exert influence over various dimensions of campus life, from the social to the academic. While it may be difficult to measure our adherence to it in the realm of academic dishonesty, there are other areas that are more readily observable and open to observation.

Every year, the Dining Center suffers significant criticism, both in jest and in sincerity, from us. It may not be a question of whether volume of such criticism is unwarranted, but rather firstly, one of how we more broadly view, and then improve, our relationship with the Dining Center. Unlike the private nature of the cases brought before Honor Council, our relationship with the Dining Center may be subject to a more collective moral examination.

I recently sent out a survey soliciting our moral judgments about specific actions, such as whether gaining access to the DC without swiping in may be considered “morally wrong” or “subject to disciplinary action.” Hopefully, the results shed light on infrequently broached ethical questions regarding our relationship with the DC.

The questions were sequenced intentionally to lead respondents progressively into questions with increasingly morally-charged implications—from the descriptive, to normative, and then finally to the prescriptive.

I asked that respondents mark whether they were on off the meal plan completely, because the issue of “sneaking” into the DC is more relevant to we who are part of this contingent of the student body.

Finally, I asked for respondents’ subjective valuations of the meal plans to them. Hopefully, this engenders conversations about a final question: whether the high cost of eating at the DC is, to some degree, implicitly immoral, and if so, whether that justifies our actions in general.

I have compiled the information I received from the student surveys into graphs. The relevant graphs are below:

sneak into the dc discipline final is sneaking into the dc morally wrong finalshould students who steal dishes discipline final  is removing dishes morally wrong final


The graphs reveal an interesting dichotomy; students simultaneously believe that an action can be wrong, and still not want those who do it to be subject to disciplinary action. Almost a quarter of students responded that removing a dish from the DC was “morally wrong.” Yet, only 16% said that those students should face disciplinary actions. For “sneaking in” the difference is even more dramatic, with the numbers being 51% and 18% respectively.

Personally, I believe that we should try our best to abide by the rules governing removal of dishes. In my handful of trips to the DC this year, I have noticed signs posted near each of the silverware carts to this effect. There have also been graphics displayed on the Coop TVs calling for the return of dishes. It seems to me that ignorance can no longer be a valid excuse.

This year I am serving on Students’ Council. In an email I sent out to the Junior class a number of weeks ago, I spoke of how college is undoubtedly a time of self-exploration and a place to develop self-reliance. Yet, it is sometimes easy to forget that we live in an interdependent community, and the cumulative effects of many small actions matter to ourselves and others.

In light of the “apathy” that many of us quip about, I try to—without mounting my soapbox—call attention to the importance of our relationship with this community. I hope that we can try to recognize when we have opportunities to do a service to a classmate, brighten someone’s day with a smile, or otherwise help out in some small way or another, we should take advantage of them.


  1. Charlotte November 23, 2015

    Two years ago I started a Go! boards discussion about this (more specifically, about taking food from the DC—people from the apartments who would “grocery shop” at the DC). I wish I could still see that. But yes, I agree that while students are very righteous about the honor code in general, they are often cavalier about taking things from the DC. This is a contradiction that often goes unrecognized.
    -Charlotte Lellman ’15

  2. collegeskeptic November 23, 2015

    Does tuition and/or a meal plan include a built-in surcharge for pilfered dining hall items as it does at many schools? If so it’s less “stealing” than getting what you’ve already paid.

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