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Honor Code failure spurs uncertainty

After the Honor Code failed to garner the two-thirds majority required for ratification, student leaders have been scrambling to navigate the process of convening a Special Plenary, which isn’t stipulated or defined in the Code itself – and to determine if the Code is still in effect.

“There’s no specification in the Constitution or the Honor Code about what happens in this interim period between Plenary and Special Plenary,” said Honor Council co-chair Tamar Hoffman ’15.

The Code stipulates that, should  it fail ratification, “a Special Plenary will be scheduled to modify the Code in such a way as to enable a two-thirds majority to vote for ratification. If less than two-thirds of the student body returns their cards, the Honor Code fails.”

Special Plenary is set to occur on March 24. Before the Spring Break, students will have to submit their resolutions along with 200 signatures. All resolutions must take the form of an amendment to the current Honor Code, and clearly outline what changes would be made.

Do we have an Honor Code?

In the interim, there’s a difference of opinion about whether the failure of the Honor Code takes effect immediately or at the start of the next academic year.

Administrators feel it should take effect at the start of the next year, said Dean of the College Martha Denney.

“To me this is as much an issue of personal integrity as community standards,” said Denney. “There is no reason to imagine that all of a sudden the student body is not worthy of the same assumption of honesty and integrity simply because there is more discussion to be had about the Code and there are folks who would like to make some changes.”

“The assumption should be business as usual,” she added.

On the other hand, Hoffman says while there are currently no ‘official’ rules on paper, the Honor Code is “in middle of the ratification process.”

“We’re not trying to enforce the Honor Code at this time because we want to leave it up to the student body and don’t want to overstep our bounds,” said Hoffman. “We’d like to give [students] the chance to have a different opinion.”

In the meantime, the Honor Council will not be accepting any new cases, but will continue to work on any ongoing cases brought to Council prior to last week’s plenary.

“Haverford still has school policies that forbid you from cheating and plagiarizing…and most students are socially inclined to still follow the Code. So we’re banking on that to define the state of the Code, at the moment,” Hoffman said.

Any cases of academic dishonesty that might occur before a new Honor Code is passed would be handled by individual faculty, said Denney.

Due Diligence

In heated discussions on- and offline, some students have questioned whether the failure to ratify the Code reveals problems with the Code itself or apathy among the broader student body.

A final tally shows 847 total votes, just 5 votes over the minimum required to reach quorum.

Of those votes, 80.7% voted to ratify, 11.793% to ratify with objections, and 7.43% not to ratify.

Procedure stipulates that the ratification process opens the fourth and fifth day after Plenary for a 48-hour period.

“We tabled exactly as the Constitution mandates us to – two days during ratification, in two different locations – in the [Dining Center] and then after dinner times in Zubrow and the Campus Center,” said Hoffman.

Many students said e-mails about the ratification process ended up in their junk mail and email quarantine.

“I feel like there are certain individuals in the crowd that aren’t lazy, ill-willed or dishonorable, but who just, for one reason or another, missed out on the necessity of voting,” Andrew Szczurek ’16 wrote in a Go! Board post.

Hoffman feels that part of the discussion at Special Plenary should include specific procedure for how to handle the interim period before Special Plenary and potential changes to the ratification process.

“We have to wait until the fourth and fifth days after Plenary to open up ratification, and I like that it’s a period of reflection, but we also run out of steam, so people might be less inclined to vote,” said Hoffman.

Re-drafting the Code

Wednesday night, three dozen students gathered in Ryan Gym to collaborate on a new draft of the Honor Code that rewords a large portion of the document.

Soon after the Honor Code failed, Jon Sweitzer-Lamme ’14 and several others students began meeting to write a code that “maintains the same spirit but better represents Haverford’s values,” Brian Guggenheimer ’16 wrote in a Facebook post. They shared the document on social media and the Go! Boards.

“The Code we failed to ratify was the product of years of patchwork edits and additions, and has by-and-large failed to evolve as Haverford has. Restructuring the Code – which is most of what we’ve done – makes it more useful and clarifies what is important to the community,” said Jon Sweitzer-Lamme ’14. “It should be recognizable as the same Code we’ve known and loved, only spruced up and, hopefully, strengthened.”

Given the large number of changes, the students aren’t sure yet how to present their changes to the student body.

“The changes we’re making now will make the code more accessible – this isn’t going to make things better all of a sudden. We’re not going to solve the problem of apathy,” said Szczurek.

See their draft with live edits here, and the Go! Boards dialogue here.
Photo by Thy Anh Vo.

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