New project to explore history of Honor system

Initiative led by vice chair for community relations to evaluate evolution of perceptions, functions of Honor

Wang is looking evaluate the University community's perception of the Honor Committee. Chandler Collins | Cavalier Daily

The Honor Committee held its second meeting with its newly-elected committee Sunday evening. During the meeting, Derrick Wang, a second-year College student and vice chair for community relations, introduced a project to evaluate the history of the Honor system at the University and how perceptions of the system have evolved over time. 

Spearheaded by Wang, the project will seek to answer three overarching questions from the conception of Honor to the present day — what the term “honor” means to members of the University community, how the Honor system functions and how people think about the Honor system. 

As the demographic fabric of the University has changed over time to include women, international students and students of color, Wang said, internal functions and external perceptions have evolved as well. To Wang, the project is important in both exploring and understanding this evolution. 

“Honor, as an institution in the early 1800s, the 1900s, was essentially a cultural ideal deeply connected to a very specific socioeconomic class, a specific race, a specific gender,” Wang said. “That notion of Honor isn’t relevant anymore.”

Wang plans to examine a number of demographically-related topics relevant to the Honor system in order to formulate answers to the project’s core questions, including the single-sanction system, racial integration, coeducation with female students and controversies within the Honor system. 

Wang believes understanding Honor’s past is crucial to moving the system forward.

“To understand what Honor should be in the future, we have to understand where has Honor been in the past and how has that changed and how we can move forward from there,” Wang said. “When we appeal to history, that has to have some kind of a legitimate basis in our actual understanding of history.”

While Wang initiated the project on his own outside of the Committee, he seeks to relate it to the Committee and the University community as a whole through the compilation of a written report with the findings and the possible establishment of a physical exhibition. 

“What I would like to do is a written report or a written essay about it,” Wang said. “More broadly, I would really like to see a exhibition or something physical … some way for the community to really interact with and understand the history of Honor, and that gives a basis for discussing Honor in the future.”

A complete timeline has not been established for the project. However, the mission is to complete archival work and research by the end of this summer and compile a complete project by the completion of the 2018-19 school year. 

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