Social code should address students’ accountability

In an op-ed last week Peter Nurnberg ’09 and Haydee Lindo ’08 authored a well-constructed piece, arguing forcefully for a codification of our community norms in the form of a “Social Honor Code”. While the incident of a few weeks ago and akin events are reprehensible to the majority and its understanding of our social norms, these sort of incidents are not the only gross violations of these norms. I am not suggesting that Peter and Haydee were incorrect in their assessment, but that their proposal is necessarily shaped by the event that happened.

To fully recount all of the violations of our community norms, property damage, biological messes, stealing and other violations must be addressed. It seems as though every year I have attended this college, there has been a rash of unseemly acts performed in direct violation of our norms.

I believe a social honor code is not just a way for the Williams community as a whole (including faculty and staff) to deal with actions that demonstrate the intolerance of one person to another; I feel its primary purpose is to create a sense of accountability among us students. While intolerance based on the perception of an individual’s identity is definitely an issue that affects students, faculty and staff, other problems are more limited to the student body on its own.

As I see it the vast majority, if not all, of the violations of our understood community standards happened in our residential spaces, with Hopkins Hall having to levy punishments. Students should be responsible to one another – not to the powers that be in Hopkins Hall. Perhaps this lack of community accountability is why we have been plagued with behavioral problems over the years.

I submit that we, the students, determine what our culture is and what kind of body we want to be. If we really want to construct mechanisms for enforcing community standards as we see them, then we must act, not out of rashness, but with deliberate thought.

Remington Shepard ’08

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