Independent of a formal University effort, some members of the campus community are pushing for a social honor code that would promote a more tolerant environment for minorities.
The University is fighting to eliminate “a culture that still exists and encourages harassment and exclusivity,” said William Robinson ’04, head of the USG’s Undergraduate Life Committee and an advocate for the new code.
A social honor code would not change the University’s stance on the importance of a respectful and safe community, but “would encourage more students to feel empowered to report cases of abuse,” said Robinson.
Issuing a statement of support for minoritites was first discussed at a University Sexuality, Education, Community and Health dinner discussion group at Terrace Club last year. At the meeting, a group of upperclassmen agreed there was need for the University to place more stress on respect for diversity and individuality on campus.
Working independently from the USG, Dr. Thema Bryant-Davis, coordinator of the University’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Advising, Resources and Education program and Robinson are discussing three possible courses of action.
The first alternative would be to isolate the part of Rights, Rules, Responsibilities that stresses the importance of “respect [for] the dignity, individuality, and freedom of each member” of the community. All students would be asked to sign the statement before arriving on campus.
The second option would be to create a completely new statement stressing a zero-tolerance policy with regard to harassment. This option, Robinson cautioned, would require extensive research and approval from the University’s administration.
The final idea would be to offer students the opportunity to sign an optional statement similar to one signed by some of the graduating Class of 2003.
Some students hope that such a statement would increase awareness and stimulate dialogue on campus. Bryant-Davis endorses the creation of a new social honor code which would receive “special emphasis, as opposed to being hidden in University policy.”
Although these measures would not necessarily entail an increase in disciplinary severity, Bryant-Davis is confident that they would function as “prevention through awareness.”
Though some students may fear that a social honor code would result in an almost Orwellian state of censorship — a community in which a lighthearted joke could be interpreted as a slur — Robinson said he feels that it could have the opposite effect. He insisted that the social honor code would “encourage a spirit of freedom of thoughts, freedom of ideas, [and] freedom of speech.”
“We’re just getting our feet wet,” Robinson said.
He and Bryant-Davis express conviction that a social honor code is essential in making minority groups feel more valued and safer on campus.