Letter to the Editor – James Olski -dlh

Waiting for my gyro, I read the recent editorial expressing dissatisfaction with the response the Honor Council gave to questions in a previous editorial. Not having read the previous editorial or the Honor Council’s response, I will limit my comments to one statement in the recent editorial.
The writer wants to distinguish between gross violation of the code and an honest mistake. As an example, a single missing footnote must be an honest mistake. Well, though it was long ago, I still remember doing a paper on Aristotle’s “Nicomachean Ethics,” using an unusual example to discuss the causes of things, when a connection popped in my head and I wrote it down. I remember that the professor circled that sentence and wrote that it really boosted my grade on that paper. One sentence.
So how is the Honor Council to judge a missing footnote? Are they to become experts in the subject matter to determine if that sentence or paragraph is capable of raising the grade of a paper? Are they to judge whether the unattributed source is so well-known that it must have been an oversight or so obscure that the writer must have intended to pass the idea off as his own? Rhetorical questions, sure, but I think they balance out the Bill O’Reilly tone of the editorial.
I was a member of the Honor Council, and I remember those meeting nights. I remember students who did just make honest mistakes. I remember a student who cheated just because he could, and I remember a student who cheated whose his parents put so much pressure on him that I went home that night and wrote a letter to my parents thanking them. It’s not an easy process, and in many cases we even tried to answer the rhetorical questions I raised.
The bottom line is, the task had to be done, we were suited to the task, and we did it. Come to think of it, as Lawrence students, we were best suited to the task. Having gone through the process, I can see that the editorial writer’s insinuations that the Honor Council is some sort of star-chamber is ridiculous.James Olski
Class of 1984

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