Dear Class of 2023,
Before you know it, it will be time for you to begin your journey here on the Mountain. The next years will be filled with both enlightening challenges and beautiful memories, and our community is excited for you to begin calling Sewanee ‘home’. My name is Alexa Fults, and I have been elected by the student body to serve as the Chair of the Honor Council for this academic year. I admit, it has been some time since I was in your shoes---preparing to blaze my own trail. Though I am now a rising junior, I still remember my first days on the Domain with great fondness.
Soon, you too will be introduced to the many traditions that make Sewanee feel so magical. Ahead of you lie years filled with sunsets at the Cross, “passing hellos” on the Quad, and late night pancakes with the Vice Chancellor. I was recently reminded by the previous Chair, Margaret Dupree C’19, that it is our traditions which create the tight-knit community of trust we all cherish. The most significant of these is the century-old tradition of honor, which is manifested in our Honor Code.
While the Code is our collective attempt to safeguard the tradition of honor, we recognize that no code can fully define what it means to live honorably. Our Honor Code, to which you will add your name upon matriculation, maintains the principle that whosoever signs it shall not lie, cheat, or steal, or tolerate such behavior from others. But the spirit of the Code reaches far beyond these requirements. The Code reminds us that “Honor is an ideal and an obligation. It exists in the human spirit and it lives in the relations between human beings. One can know honor without defining it.” The message which the Code imparts to its signers is this: living in accordance with our Honor Code is more than submitting ourselves to an institutional authority; it is a promise made to our peers that we will not betray our tradition of trust.
Unlike that of most other universities, our Honor Code is written, signed, and enforced solely by students. This is accomplished through a student-elected Honor Council. The Council consists of four seniors, four juniors, three sophomores, and one first-year student, who are elected annually by their respective class year. (One of you will be elected in September.) Each member of the Honor Council is responsible for representing the voice of the student body in hearing cases both academic and non-academic. When a suspected violation of the Code is reported to the Council, the Chair assigns a representative to serve as an impartial investigator for the student in question. Information is then presented to the Council in the form of an unbiased report. It is the Council’s responsibility to determine whether or not the Code has been violated. If clear and convincing evidence of a violation is found, the Code requires that the student found responsible serve a penance ranging from probationary conditions to a two-semester suspension, based on the nature of the violation. In order to protect the integrity of our degrees, academic dishonesty is always met with an F in the course. As students, the Council reviews each case with immense care, and we understand how deeply upsetting the consequences of violating the Code can be. However, it is the accountability of our Honor System which allows us the freedom we enjoy at Sewanee.
Before you ‘tap the roof’ and pick up your very own Sewanee Angel, take a moment to read through the Honor Code online. Spend some time contemplating your own standards for living with integrity, as you prepare to carry on the tradition of honor at Sewanee.
Class of 2023, your journey begins with this promise. It is a pledge to your classmates and neighbors. It is a commitment to choose honor for yourself and for your community. Without this promise, the bonds of trust which bind our unique community together would be broken. In order to safeguard this tradition, Sewanee looks to you to embody the spirit of the Code.
YSR, EQB, and welcome home!
Alexa S. Fults C’21
Chair of the Honor Council