An open letter from the Honor Council to the community

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“Respectfully, we submit that we should look to our own Honor Code for a tradition that combines both the academic and the ecclesiastical. In its essence, we do not condone perverse behavior. We want to be clear that we have stood, and always will stand, against sexual harassment of women or men. At the same time, we do not believe it is our place to condemn the individual. In fact, we think there is grave danger were we to go down that path. We impose a penalty where appropriate, but we also offer forgiveness. That said, it would be easy to condemn Mr. Rose and rescind the honorary degree. It is harder not to do so. The opportunity to forgive should always be taken. Condemnation has no place here.” – Board of Regents, February 15, 2018


The Honor Council wishes to separate from the association made between the Honor Code and sexual misconduct and express its concerns with the reference to the Honor Code.

Most principally, the Honor Code is an effort to create a system that expects responsibility and integrity. After all, “no code can adequately define honor. Honor is an ideal and an obligation. It exists in the human spirit and it lives in the relations between human beings. One can know honor without defining it.” (The Honor System). Our community has for more than a century considered honor principally and most basically on the prohibition of lying, cheating, stealing. However, the ideal of honor extends much further and intimately than any code or Honor Council could represent.

First, the Honor Code has never and will never handle matters regarding sexual assault. Councils over the last years have struggled immensely with overcoming the misunderstanding that sexual misconduct is handled under the Code. The Code states that an honorable person does not lie, cheat, or steal. However, it implicitly demands from signers and upholders to live a life of honor and integrity.

Secondly, in reference to the association with the Honor Code and ‘condemnation,’ while the Council does not ‘condemn’ those found to have violated the Code, there are repercussions for violating the Code. A student must ordinarily spend two semesters away from the community. Such suspension is a penance that must be completed in order to return to Sewanee. When students come before the Council remorseful for their actions committed (among other things) we cannot simply dismiss the case- we can lower the suspension to a semester. Violating the Honor Code has consequences. The Code requires suspension, not expulsion, on the premise that honor, while once lost, can be earned back. When a student returns to the mountain, honor is then restored. While no Code can adequately define honor, there is no mention of the concept of forgiveness.

The Honor Code as a document has no place in this discussion; however, the sense of integrity that the Code demands certainly does. In regards to Charlie Rose, the opinion of this community, which the century-old student-run Honor Council represents, holds that Mr. Rose’s actions offend the values on which Sewanee is founded. Honor is a principal part of the type of degree that Mr. Rose received, and therefore honor and its role in this community is a fundamental part of the issue at hand.

We, the Honor Council, strongly urge that discussion regarding Charlie Rose’s degree be opened to the general community through thoughtful conversation. Only through honest and respectful dialogue can a true decision be made. The conversation must go beyond simply revoking or not revoking the degree. We all must consider the methods we apply, as a community bound by honor, in situations that we believe violate the likewise intangible feeling that imbues our home.

Respectfully,

Margaret Dupree, Chair, ’19

Miguel Portillo, Vice-Chair, ’19

Elizabeth Parrish, Secretary, ’19

Wright Griffith, ’18

Anna Hunley, ’18

Julie Laurenzo, ’18

Monica Bueso, ’18

David Johnson, ’19

Tillman James, ’20

Sofia Olencheck, ’20

Abigail Schipps, ’20

Alexa Fults, ’21

One comment

  1. “I come back to the mountain often and see, with a pang, however different it may be to me, it is no different… Then with humility I try to blend and merge the past and the present, to reach the unchanging essence.”

    William Alexander Percy,
    Lanterns on the Levee

    What Percy described as “the unchanging essence” of the mountain, is what I believe the signatories from the current members of the Honor Council are calling the “intangible feeling that imbues our home.”

    Once again I suggest that Spirit Empowered Sewaneans are those who realize that the Sewanee Spirit they experienced as a student on The Domain is more than grain punch…and that He abides there to be experienced again. Jesus Christ’s presence is the “unchanging essence” of the mountain.

    Look at The Window! http://bit.ly/2F2Bk3n

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