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Honor System Works W L*

Honor systems work

By Robert P. Naftel

As a junior at Washington and Lee University, I find myself inspired by students' seriousness toward the honor system and in awe of the freedom this foundation of honor promotes. Unattended books, unlocked bicycles and unwatched backpacks are the norm.

Our student-run honor system is not a codified set of regulations. Instead, it condemns behavior that demonstrates a student is unworthy of trust by his or her peers. This approach strengthens our system, as each generation defines what is dishonorable.

W&L's reliance on trust frees students to build relationships grounded in respect and to experience the liberation of honor. Tests are not proctored, and professors take students at their word. Students share intellectual ideas freely and, as a result, learning flourishes on our Lexington, Va., campus.

Our system equally applies to situations and interactions beyond the university, because honor is not limited to any one part of a student's life or by campus boundaries -- for honor permeates all aspects of our lives.

To me, honor is the personal integrity that lies deep within us. Honor systems act as a catalyst in bringing this out while fostering personal responsibility.

Some say honor systems are no longer effective. I believe they can and do work. At Washington and Lee, where classes are small, honor is the rule rather than the exception. The validity of our system is proved each year when allegations for violations, including plagiarism or lying, are brought before the student executive committee and investigated.

Upon findings of guilt, students must leave the university. These cases, while weighing heavily on our spirits, are not a threat to our honor system, but affirmation that it is thriving and persevering.

At W&L, students commit to live by honor. They understand there is only one sanction for a violation of honor -- permanent dismissal -- because honor cannot be measured by degree. The university's honor system seeks, above all else, to build character as a cornerstone within each of us as we prepare to fulfill our duties in life. I look forward to graduating not only with a degree but also a lifelong commitment to honor.

Robert P. Naftel serves as president of Washington and Lee University's executive committee of the student body, which oversees the student-run honor system. Atmosphere of trust builds integrity, personal responsibility

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