The Cavalier Daily
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Honorable students make honor system work

IF YOU haven't heard anything about the upcoming vote on the Honor Committee's proposed changes to the honor system, then you've either been living under a rock or have been riddled with the winter flu that's going around. Students will get a chance to vote on the four referenda the week of Feb. 26-Mar. 1. It's no secret that many members of the University community are vying for support for or against the referenda. Throw into the mix the recent hoopla surrounding whether or not the Board of Visitors "scripted" the changes back in 1999, and you've got yourself a University that is as full of honor talk as it is Dave Matthews Band excitement.

I don't care.

I don't care whether you vote for or against the proposed changes. In fact, I don't care if you vote at all. I'm not going to speculate as to whether or not the Board of Visitors played puppet master two years ago in order to create the momentum for change that is soon to reach its peak. And I'm sure not going to go over each and every referendum and highlight its positive and negative aspects. You should know them all by now anyway.

Knowledge of the honor system should be a staple in every student's life. All the time. It's nice to remind people of the importance of honor whenever it's all over the front pages, the topic of many conversations and the center of much controversy, but that's not nearly enough.

The honor system applies to every student every day - whether he's in the classroom, the gym or the library. But upholding the system's tenets - being honorable - should stay with you whether you're 20 or 106, walking down the street or trekking in a foreign land. Honor is that which binds every student at this University, and it's high time we took it more seriously.

Honor has been a part of University history since 1842 - longer than any other student-run honor system in the country. It has endured both World Wars, the Great Depression and the turbulent 1960s. It has greeted the first out-of-state, black and female students to join the Academical Village. Throughout all the changes that have occurred over the years, honor has remained a solid foundation underfoot - something that every student could take comfort in knowing would never fail him.

Although changes may be around the corner in the near future, these are mere changes in the honor system. Honor itself never will change. It doesn't matter whether juries will consist of random students or those who are part of the Honor Committee. It doesn't matter if the Board had more to do with the proposals than they'd like to admit. What matters is that every student takes it upon himself to remain honorable. Honor has been the backbone of the University for 158 years, and will continue to be for centuries to come.

Some may argue that the honor system is dying or that an honorable student is harder to come by these days than a seat at U-Hall. Baloney. The roots of honor are too deeply seeded in Charlottesville for a few pessimists and naysayers to be correct. No matter what gray areas surround the workings of the system, the honor itself shines through.

In an interview, Honor Committee chairman Thomas Hall summed up the feeling thousands of Cavaliers have felt. "When students walk down the Lawn and receive their degrees, they know they will be walking with classmates who honestly earned their degrees, and they will enter into a body of alumni known for their integrity." Just knowing that so many have walked the Lawn as honorable students in the past is motivation enough to keep the spirit of the University alive. If students make honor a major part of their everyday lives, then this feeling will last no matter what happens in the future.

Whatever changes occur as a result of the upcoming vote, the true test of the honor system will be up to the student body - those who hold the sole responsibility for maintaining what hundreds of thousands of alumni, living and dead, have made a huge part of their lives.

Besides, the vote will not matter. If students don't uphold honor as they do any other aspect of their character, they shouldn't even bother to vote anyway. The honorable won't necessarily be the ones who vote, they'll be the ones who uphold the system's tenets no matter what lies ahead.

Honor rises above any system that governs it, any changes that affect it or any bureaucracy that tries to change it. If a student lies, cheats or steals, he is not honorable. It doesn't matter who determines his fate, how they go about doing so or if they get help from "higher ups." A student without honor should not be a student at the University of Virginia.

(Brandon Almond is a Cavalier Daily opinion editor. He can be reached at


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