Staff Editorial

Lawrence University is one of only about 400 American colleges and universities with a unique and valuable feature – an honor system maintained entirely by students. Moreover, it is the only school in the state of Wisconsin whose honor system is not run by the administration. This gives Lawrentians great power over the quality of their education. However, as Spider-Man so aptly put it, “With great power there must also come great responsibility.”
Lately, this responsibility has been sacrificed and replaced with an overly lax, dismissive attitude regarding the honor code at Lawrence. Many students have questioned whether there is a need for an honor system at all. It seems, on the contrary, that the need for such a system is greater than ever before. The honor council has seen a rise in the number of violations in the past few years, many of which seem to indicate that students do not understand or simply do not respect the parameters of the agreement they signed as freshmen.
The honor code encompasses a wide range of possible violations, all of which serve to ensure that “no Lawrence student will unfairly advance his or her own academic performance or in any way limit or impede the academic pursuits of other students of the Lawrence community.” Directly copying another’s work without proper citation – plagiarism – is one of the more obvious and frequent violations. However, the honor council also sees cases involving improper behavior during examinations or the misuse of university property and materials. It is each student’s individual responsibility to consider whether his or her actions lie within the expectations set forth by the honor code, even if the matter at hand seems trivial or unimportant. Chances are, it’s not.
Another frequent complaint regarding the honor system at Lawrence is that it is too harsh. Violations often result in a zero on the assignment in question and a reduction of at least two letter grades in the course. Occasionally the student receives an F in the course due to the violation. The honor council determines the appropriate punishment depending on the severity of the case at hand. Some schools, however, employ much stricter measures when dealing with honor code issues. The University of Wittenberg, for example, uses an “XF” notation policy. The “X” next to the F on the student’s transcript is a way to notify whoever views the grade that the student violated the honor code. Many other universities with honor systems are considering adopting the same policy. Lawrence’s honor code policies are actually much less harsh than others; however, if the honor system continues to suffer, stricter measures may need to be implemented here as well.
Lawrence’s honor system gives both students and faculty an incredible amount of freedom in the classroom. Many instructors leave the room during exams, give take-home tests, and allow students to work together on assignments. Students are not stifled or watched over while completing their work. However, in order for this system to remain effective, each and every student must understand, respect, and value it. I, H, R, T, L, U, H and C are not insignificant or unimportant letters; they represent a unique, long-standing academic tradition at Lawrence that each student is individually responsible for upholding.