Executive Committee task force to raise awareness about Honor System

Executive Committee's Education Task Force to increase understanding, awareness about Honor System

Alison Murtagh

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Following two major honor investigations during the 2016-2017 school year, Washington and Lee University’s Executive Committee is planning to increase understanding among students and professors of the centuries-old Honor System through the Education Task Force.

Sonia Brozak, ’17, currently serves as secretary of the EC. Last year, as a Class of 2017 Representative, she created the Education Task Force to help broaden the community’s understanding of the Honor System.

“I had been a hearing advisor … and in that role, we would first see students who are confronting the system, and they would just have no knowledge of it. They thought that they were immediately going to be dismissed, regardless of what happened in the hearing,” she said. “There were a lot of different sort[s] of reactions to the Honor System, and I felt like the community shouldn’t be scared of it, and it shouldn’t be something that people fear. It should be something that is out in the open and that people know about.”

One purpose of the Education Task Force is to send emails to the student body once a month, in addition to sending copies of the EC’s minutes and honor postings to the editors of larger campus publications.

“The Education Task Force did a lot of work with professors actually—making outreach to professors more well known, because a lot of the times professors haven’t read the White Book in 20 years and don’t know that it gets updated,” Brozak said.

Wilson Miller, ‘17, was recently inducted as president of the EC for the upcoming school year. He wants to increase the visibility of the EC on campus and to improve awareness of the Honor System.

“One of our things that we’re doing, starting this upcoming Monday, is having business meetings in common campus locations,” Miller said. “So we’re having a meeting in the Commons living room … and that will be a good way for people to see us in action, to see what we do, and have an opportunity to just drop in and say if something is going wrong, or if they have concerns or questions.”

During Orientation Week, first-years attend an honor orientation in Lee Chapel to learn about the Honor System and to agree to abide by it throughout their time at W&L.

“There’s been some initiative to say, well, that should not be your last interaction with the Honor System unless you’re brought in for an honor matter,” Brozak said. “It should be something that you know about, and that is sort of present, but a positive thing. It shouldn’t be taboo to talk about it.”

Miller plans to increase the community’s awareness of the system, and its impact on campus life.

“We want people to understand the procedure, we want people to understand the philosophy of it, and the benefits that Washington and Lee students get as a result of having this honor system in place,” Miller said.

The committee hopes to continue conversations about the system after Orientation Week is over.

“One idea that we’ve had is to recruit students, especially following first-year elections, […] to join a group that is dedicated to understanding the ins and outs of the honor system. And having a knowledgeable base on which to discuss it on campus,” Miller said. “It broadens the conversation and makes more people knowledgeable.”

Jordan Watson, ‘19, sees the benefits from the Honor System as stretching even past graduation.

“I think the Honor System at Washington and Lee is something that makes it unique from most other schools,” Watson said. “I think that it would be great if the EC is working to expand our knowledge on the Honor System because I feel like if it’s something we’re known for, we should do it well.”

With the year coming to an end, the EC is already planning on how it will improve the presence of the Honor System on campus for the coming school year.

“Going forward, I think there is a lot to be done to help expand that message to the greater community,” Brozak said. “And I think the last election cycle really made known that people are interested in questioning sort of what the EC does.”

“We want to be a resource, and I think that’s something that’s really important for the EC to do, to be approachable, “ Miller said.