A Letter on the Honor Code

Kaj Knudsen

Contributing Writer

I hope this letter finds you in a place where you roll your eyes and think, “Why’s this guy writing about the Honor Code? I know I won’t be lying, cheating, or stealing any time soon.” Whether or not that is you, I would like to remind everyone of the Code we all signed years, or weeks, ago. 

The Honor Code asks to do more than not lie, cheat, or steal. It asks us to live honorably. I could go into a convoluted explanation of what honor means to me with a bunch of big fancy words and heartfelt emotions, but I don’t need to do that. We all have our own definition of honor and will hold ourselves accountable in our everyday lives. 

Back to the lying and stealing and cheating I mentioned: Over the past three years, the Honor Council saw 26 academic cases. Those 26 students were made up of 13 first-years, five sophomores, four juniors, and four seniors. While 24 of the 26 students were found responsible, 15 took complete responsibility for their actions. 

Honor at Sewanee is like your set of keys. You bring it with you everywhere you go and it allows you to keep going where you want and doing what you want. If you are not intentional about keeping your keys on you, you may slip up and lose them in a rush out the door. And if you aren’t quick enough, the door may lock behind you on your way out. Then you’ll have to put some work in to get back into your room and get your keys to keep going about life. 

Some students come before the Honor Council and claim they did not intend to lie, cheat, or steal. My personal advice is to be intentional about not lying, cheating, and stealing. Honor isn’t something you can passively keep… it’s like your keys in that way. 

Any time I walk out the door or get up from a table at a restaurant, I feel my pockets and think to myself, “phone, keys, wallet,” to make sure I’m not leaving anything behind. I urge you all to do the same (seriously do that… it’s super helpful) with your work for school. Any and every time you go to submit an assignment, pledge your work by writing “pledged” at the top and signing your name. As you sign your name, ask yourself if you have completed the work honorably, following the Honor Code and your professor’s specifications. If you have not done this, ask yourself if an F in the class and a potential suspension is better than turning the work in late once it is your own. 

A note on Artificial Intelligence: with the rise of AI, I would like to remind the entire community that the Honor Code remains the same for the time being. If your professor does not explicitly approve the use of AI on an assignment, big or small, it is an Honor Code violation to use it. Several groups on campus, including the Honor Council, plan to host conversations regarding AI to inform the Honor Code’s stance on the issues and opportunities surrounding AI moving forward. Be on the lookout for when these conversations happen and please participate when you can. 

Keep track of your keys… and lock your bike (one of those is a metaphor, but both are literal). 


Kaj Knudsen (C ’24)

Chair of the Honor Council

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