Respecting Honor

To the Editor:

“My name is my honor.” To me, this phrase implies bloodlines of the 16th century – the same import that sanctioned divine right, incest and bartering of marriages to ensure political welfare. I was surprised, therefore, on my walk into Sawyer last Thursday, to encounter two banners thus emblazoned.

That the banners are gold with purple lettering also left me with the impression that those who had signed them were somehow invoking the name “Williams” as part of their “honor,” a sense that reeked to me of old-boy pretension.

When I was informed that the flags are meant to reflect pride in the Williams honor code, I was astounded. The honor code is incredibly important. It is the foundation of scholarship. Yet instead of academic duty, the banners instilled in me an image of antiquated, sexist (after all, women could not carry their own name – a tradition the vestiges of which we still live with today) sense of self-identification. This very juxtaposition was unsettling.

Furthermore, the very notion that a name could stand for honor seems to ignore a number of recent developments in modern thought. Actually, even Shakespeare was on to this. I mean, come on – what’s in a name? Admittedly, our society prizes the signature as a form of legal approbation, and this appears to be what the banners are getting at. Yet by signing the banner, none of the participants sign the honor code! Perhaps the banners should read something more along the lines of “my signature here is the same as the signature I used to sign the honor code, and is, therefore, in this case, synonymous with this much of my honor.”

OK, so that does not quite roll off the tongue. But at least it gets the point across and does not have me conjuring up entirely misplaced, neigh, antithetical images.

I agree with the impetus that got the banners hung. Williams does need to treat its honor code with more respect, including our actual signatures. It is a travesty that our “signing” the honor code consists only in checking a box at the beginning of the year. I would even agree that such ceremony should involve a public display of signatures. However, you will not catch me signing any gaudy banner that reads, “My Name is My Honor.”

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