2009-2010 School of Law Catalog 
    Jul 23, 2024  
2009-2010 School of Law Catalog archived

The Honor System and Student Conduct

Honor is the moral cornerstone of Washington and Lee University. Since Robert E. Lee’s presidency, the concept of honor has been the guiding principle of life at Washington and Lee. The commitment to honor is recognized by every student, faculty member, administrator, and staff member of the University. Providing the common thread woven through the many aspects of this institution, honor creates a community of trust and respect affecting fundamentally the relationships of all its members.

The centrality of honor at Washington and Lee is contained in its Honor System, a legacy of Robert E. Lee. In accord with the University’s strong and long-standing commitment to student autonomy, the Board of Trustees has granted to students the privilege of overseeing the administration of the Honor System. This privilege includes the responsibilities of (1) defining dishonorable acts (now defined in terms of the categories of lying, cheating, and stealing, and other breaches of trust); (2) investigating and judicially managing honor hearings; (3) writing and revising the White Book, the Honor System policy and procedures manual; and (4) reporting directly to the Board of Trustees on the administration of the Honor System. The sole penalty for an Honor System violation is dismissal from the University. These responsibilities are administered by the Student Executive Committee, a group of students elected annually by their peers.

Academic life is essentially shaped by the commitment to honor. Assuming that students will behave honorably, the faculty grants flexibility in the scheduling of most final examinations, and all are taken without supervision. Take-home closed book examinations are a common occurrence. The pledge, “On my honor, I have neither given nor received any unacknowledged aid on this paper (exam, assignment),” expresses the student’s promise that the work submitted is his or hers alone and that no unfair advantage has been taken of peers by cheating. Students’ dedication to honorable behavior in all their academic work creates a strong bond of trust among them and between them and the faculty. This student dedication and the bond that it engenders also provides the basis for the faculty member’s commitment to accepting a student’s word without question.

The dedication to behave honorably is not confined to academic life. It is expected that students will respect each other’s word and intellectual and personal property in the residence halls and the Greek houses, on the playing field, in the city of Lexington, wherever Washington and Lee students take themselves. This principled expectation provides the foundation for the community of trust which students seek to create not only in the academic sphere but also in life outside it as well.

The Honor System has been Washington and Lee University’s uniquely defining feature for well over a century. Thousands of students have lived under it while in residence, have been morally shaped by it, and as alumni and alumnae continue to be guided by it in their professional lives. Current students are as committed to it as were those who lived and studied here before them, and they maintain with firm conviction this distinctive ideal of the University.

The School of Law operates under the Honor System. By matriculation, each student accepts the obligations of the Honor System, including recognition of the full and final responsibility of the Executive Committee of the student body for the handling of honor offenses.

Most student offenses not involving dishonorable conduct are handled by the Student Judicial Council, composed of university students. There is a right of appeal to the University Board of Appeals. Various sanctions are possible, including dismissal if the non-honor offense is serious enough.

The Board of Trustees reserves the right to withhold the degree of any student who has been convicted of a felony by a court in any jurisdiction. Upon the satisfactory completion of that student’s court-imposed sentence, including any period of supervised probation, the Board may approve the awarding of such degree.

The Board may postpone approval of a degree for any student who has been charged with a felony in any jurisdiction when such charge is pending at the time the degree is to be awarded.