A Letter on the Honor Code

Sarah Jane Kemmer    
Guest Contributor

Dear Sewanee Community, 

I hope you are all off to a great start to the school year. As the busyness of the school year begins, I want to remind you of the pledge you made to the Honor Code. Reflecting on how you can better yourself and your community each academic year is essential.

I am sure you all understand how seriously we take the Honor Code at Sewanee. It’s part of why Sewanee is such a special place. The Honor Code is supposed to enable us to reach our full potential. We all benefit from this community of trust, and we must all remember that there is power behind every decision you make on this campus. When an act of lying, stealing, or cheating comes to the attention of the Honor Council, the Honor Code requires that we take action. When the Council finds “clear and convincing” evidence of a violation, the Code requires that the student serve a penance; for academic violations, that penalty always includes an F in the course and may include suspension. Each year the Council responds to cases–last year, for example, there were seven reported academic cases, with five resulting in “responsible” outcomes. That was fewer than usual; data show that the Council typically sees 12 or more each year. But there actually don’t have to be any at all, for we all have the freedom to choose to act honorably. 

Living with honor is a choice we must make every single day, and it is a choice that allows us to live in a system of trust. Your professors want you to thrive, so don’t hesitate to contact them during office hours. If you are confused about citations, ask. Also, every student on this campus has started an assignment later than they planned and needed a  quick way to meet the deadline soon. Do not cut corners. Ask for the extension ; it’s  better to lose a few points on an assignment than risk an Honor violation. New students, this is especially important for you to understand, as one-third of all academic cases over the past ten years have involved first-year students: take time to do your honest work and ask for help!

Most of all, think of the Honor Code as a guide to living with integrity. When you have integrity, you live according to your deepest values: despite any situation that you face, your integrity will be unshakable. You are a whole human that takes accountability for your actions. You are the same person in the classroom, on the field, in McClurg, and the quad. 

As your semester begins, contemplate this excerpt of the Code’s preamble, “one can know honor without defining it .” Identify your core values and live them out. The Honor Code aids you in growing into the leader Sewanee knows you can be. The Honor Council is always here to support you. We all possess the potential to make Sewanee a better place. So, let’s do it together. 

EQB, 

Sarah Jane Kemmer C’23
Chair of the Honor Council 

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