This past week, for the Violence Against Women Symposium, I organized a review of the sexual assault and misconduct policy. During our conversations, we began to realize that the sexual assault policy and the Honor Code had something in common: it seemed as though we talked about both at Orientation, and then never again.
In our first weeks at Wheaton, we are crammed with information. We read the Honor Code out loud in the Chapel and then sign it. Sometimes we put it on our papers. Sometimes people mean it, and sometimes they don’t. But the conversation ends there.
In my very first semester at Wheaton, I heard about anti-Semitic and homophobic graffiti on campus. I attended a community meeting in which members of the Wheaton community shared times they felt devalued on Wheaton’s campus following those events. And I thought: so what does the Honor Code actually mean?
I applaud the Student Government Association’s recent efforts to begin a conversation about the Honor Code. I think it is an important one and one that hopefully many people will contribute to. I think we need to attach a concrete meaning to the message we sign at orientation.
To me, the Honor Code means cleaning up after your friends when they get sick on the weekend, and not leaving it for the dedicated cleaning staff to deal with. It means getting to know the cleaning staff by name and asking them about their days. It means greeting the person taking your card in Emerson or Chase, and not just shoving it in their face. It means being willing to sign your name to your opinions.
I hope that the Honor Code can start to be a tool to build community on this campus. But before that, we need to talk about what it actually means.