I think that one thing that has been somewhat overlooked by prior commenters is the effect of the Honor Code on those who violate it. The Honor Code is at its best when people who violate it come forward of their own volition and work hard to build back trust between themself and the community/professors. Professors have expressed this to me. My impression is that at other institutions, one strike (such as cheating on an exam) could be enough to fail you in the course, or even get you expelled. At Mudd, professors and students genuinely care about rebuilding their community when Honor Code violations happen, which is why first-time violators often do not get very harsh sanctions. (JamesNicholson)|
-- The HarveyMuddCollege Honor Code
The Honor Code is what we make of it.
At best, the honor code means that we can live together not by a rulebook but as a community based on mutual trust and respect. It means that we decide our own responsibilities to each other.
At worst, the honor code means that the rules are arbitrary, and that anyone can get in trouble at a whim. When this happens, you have no way of knowing whether you are breaking the honor code or why.
The Honor Code and The Rules
Don't mix up the honor code with college policy in general. They overlap in subtle ways, but are not the same.
The Rules are under the DisciplinaryBoard?'s jurisdiction. Violations of the rules are not necessarily honor code violations. The honor code exists to protect community integrity. You can break college rules without breaking the honor code, if community trust is not at issue.
Does climbing on roofs, breaking into buildings, sneaking around inside walls and ceilings, etc. violate the integrity of the community?
It's illegal, and according to the student handbook, we're not supposed to be breaking any laws while we're here. On the other hand, there's the whole underage drinking thing, and I'm not going to have words on that subject except to say the general opinion is that so long as you know what you're doing and aren't being malicious (and don't get caught and aren't a DumbAss who only thinks they know what they're doing), it's all right. Though illegal, it is accepted by the community.
On the other hand, the doors are (cough) locked for a reason. Presumably, this reason is that the administration doesn't want students just wandering around in certain areas as a matter of course. They certainly fulfill that function. Whether or not wandering around occasionally on the roof violates that principle is a matter for debate.
Another point is that the administration clearly has some idea of what goes on, and at least some of them implicitly tolerate it. This year's YouKnowWhat (see ShamiksWackyBuddy) is a good example -- a few of us went and pulled down the first sign in broad daylight, while at the same time retrieving the Shamik dummy from Hixon Court where it had fallen. The sign was as visible to the administration and faculty as it was to the frosh; if they had wanted to expend any effort to determine who was responsible, it would not have been hard.
Another example. During the first SuperMovieNight? prank attempt, some students damaged a ceiling (see ThePyrosWhoDontDoAnything). We decided as a group not to self-report under the honor code, because we didn't feel that the damage was harmful to the community. The only members of the community to be affected would be FacilitiesAndMaintenance?, so we wrote and signed a letter to them taking responsibility, and asking to pay for the cost of repairs. (On the other hand, you could say that this was because we just didn't want to get in any real trouble.)
Notable honor code cases
Does the Honor Code make a difference?
I feel the Honor Code does not really make HarveyMuddCollege different from anywhere else. People who have integrity will attempt to follow both the letter and spirit of the law (as they see it; I do not expect everyone will agree on what is right and wrong), while those who do not will base their moral decisions on the probability of being caught. I think that while it is an excellent idea in principle, we must expect that in practice it will not make people here any different from elsewhere.
The major difference the honor code makes is that discipline is meted out by students as well the administration. This has good and bad aspects: I have heard of people getting away with fairly blatant violations of the honor code by knowing the JudicialBoard/DisciplinaryBoard? chairs. I have not specifically heard of the converse, but I would not be surprised if it happened. On the other hand, having students help decide HonorCode violations and punishments helps give perspective to the sentences, because students may understand better than the administration what really goes on, and prevents some of the friction of unjust sentences handed down from "on high." When unjust sentences are handed down under the honor code, at least we can do something about it besides begging the administration to rescind its decision, something that any bureaucracy is loathe to do. (CurtisVinson)
I don't discount that other colleges might be worse. I just don't think it's because of the honor code. I think it's a combination of small size and the type of people who come to Mudd. Small size makes it easier to trust people. It makes people less inclined to do things that hurt the community, because they have a significant stake in that community. It reduces anonymity, which helps control random jerks who only do things because they know they can get away with it by hiding in the "herd."
As for people who come here, I don't believe that HMC students are any more or less moral than the general populace; this is what I meant when I said that the honor code does not make HarveyMuddCollege different from anywhere else. I do think that the students here care more about being educated, which makes them more inclined to respect college property and institutions, for fear of being caught and expelled if nothing else. This is not at all true at many colleges, where people may be forced to attend by their parents or general social expectations, and thus simply do not care. For much the same reason, I do not think there are large social groups at Mudd which view it as "cool" to destroy property or the like, while if such groups do not actively exist at other places, there are certainly large swathes of the population which have an entirely neutral attitude to academics.
The Honor Code is in this sense a formalization of the attitudes and community that already exist on this campus. The administration can permit liberal policies because they can trust that almost no students will abuse them, and we can deal with exceptions on a case by case basis. However, the honor code is not the reason we enjoy those privileges. The honor code is composed of words. They are well-meaning and noble-sounding words, but I believe that words only rarely change the way people act. The Honor Code will exist precisely as long as the administration, faculty, and students -- in other words, the HMC community -- decide to keep the spirit of the words. (CurtisVinson)
I think that one thing that has been somewhat overlooked by prior commenters is the effect of the Honor Code on those who violate it. The Honor Code is at its best when people who violate it come forward of their own volition and work hard to build back trust between themself and the community/professors. Professors have expressed this to me. My impression is that at other institutions, one strike (such as cheating on an exam) could be enough to fail you in the course, or even get you expelled. At Mudd, professors and students genuinely care about rebuilding their community when Honor Code violations happen, which is why first-time violators often do not get very harsh sanctions. (JamesNicholson)
The Honor Code and The Law
So. Where do software piracy, music piracy and underage drinking fall in this mess? (Those were the three most common crimes I could think of at Mudd.) -- AriNieh
Monologue from the 1998 LookBook on this topic:
"...the Honor Code is there to protect the community here at Mudd, not to make sure people follow every rule on the books. Most people here believe that underage drinking doesn't really hurt the community if people do it responsibly, and irresponsible drinking is a bad thing whether the drinker is of age or not. Of course, the school's official position must necessarily be in accordance with all state, federal, and local laws, but unless people really screw up and somebody winds up in the hospital or something, nobody is going to say anything if you drink here before you're twenty-one. It's all a matter of accepting additional personal responsibility in exchange for greater freedom."
An interesting perspective, I think, even if I'm not sure whether it's "right" (whatever the hell that means; mmmm, moral relativism). -- (somebody else)
Generally cases where people have different ideas about the relative morality of the actions have a bit of leeway (since they mostly fall under the category of "why would that be against the Honor code?"). I consider myself a fairly moral person, but I will occasionally stoop to pirating music or software. I don't do it as much as many people I know, and generally I only get music that I've heard incessantly on the radio or MTV anyway and could've just recorded it myself. Software I don't pirate very much (growing up working for a computer game company has given me much more respect for that sort of thing. People are stealing from the CS majors when they're copying cds), but I will occasionally to see if the game/software is even worth playing (I burned a copy of Starcraft to play for two weeks, then bought the actual game because I liked it). Music piracy's even going through a national debate on the legality of it, so this is an interesting topic even there. I doubt many conclusions will be reached on this, myself. -- BrianRoney
Why do people violate the Honor Code?
I personally have heard of three kinds of cases in about equal frequency: people who do things which are quite deliberate violations of the honor code, people who don't think through the consequences of their actions and violate the Honor Code, and people who do things which fall in gray areas or violate rules they don't know about. I don't know whether these actually occur with equal frequency, never having served on the JudiciaryBoard? or DisciplinaryBoard?. (CurtisVinson)
I'm pretty sure that if I've ever broken the Honor Code, it was because I didn't know it was a violation of the Honor Code. However, if those actions were against the Honor Code, I probably would have still broken it. My personal moral code happens to match up fairly well with the Honor Code (that's another thing the Honor Code does for Mudd. It attracts people that like Honor Codes. I know I was influenced by a story of a person leaving a pair of rollerblades outside of Olin and having them still be there several days later). (BrianRoney)
I miss the HarveyMuddCollege HonorCode (or the moral atmosphere which makes it appear to be unnecessary, or both) :(. In the outside world, even in "academia," which we place on a supposed pedestal, people bite, scratch, and do lots of things to each other that would not pass the NewspaperTest?.
-- DavidLiao (2012 May 12 20h28? PDT)