Thursday, August 26, 2010
Two Much Honor
UVA has an honor code and I like it a lot. One interesting thing about it, beyond the actual code of conduct, is that it is entirely student run: students wrote the honor code (and can amend it), students report possible violations, students investigate the reports, students advocate for defendants and prosecute cases, and students make the decision about guilt or innocence (and if you're found guilty of cheating, it's automatic dismissal from the University). This strikes me as a great example of Joseph Smith's famous dictum about how to govern such a large body of people: "I teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves."
At first I was sad that BYU doesn't follow a similar method. [Of course, the BYU honor code was instigated by students and originally was based exclusively on academic honesty, Ernest Wilkinson was the one who appropriated (some might say hijacked) it into an administration-run system that expanded to include things ranging from modesty to advocating homosexuality as moral.] But then I thought about it and I think I actually prefer it the way it is now.
To some extent, and in an idealized world, I do wish BYU's honor code were run by students. But... I also worry that if we handed that duty off to students today it wouldn't work too well in practice, in fact I would argue that in many ways it would be more strict than it is today. I mean, I could just see too many people who are the hardcore-"honor" types taking over the enforcement and not showing any mercy on people who leave a person of the opposite gender's apartment at 12:15, or on people who support civil unions for gays, or who wear tights underneath a skirt that doesn't reach their knees. While I admittedly haven't had any personal run-ins with the honor code office under the current regime, I would think administrators, who have had a lot of experience with people in bishoprics and relief societies and wards in general, would have a bit more mercy on things.
Or maybe I'm way off.
If it were up to you, would you have BYU's honor code enforced entirely by students? Are my fears of honor fundamentalists taking control and ruling with an iron grasp paranoid?