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The Blue & Gray Press | August 19, 2019

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Staff Editorial: Increased thefts question honor

Since the start of the spring semester, the Bullet’s weekly Police Beat column, which compiles information from Campus Police, has reported 28 incidents of theft. The occurrences thus far range from a grand larceny of clothing and jewelry from Alvey Hall on Jan. 25 to the theft of an iPad from a backpack in Goolrick Hall on Feb. 6. Only five weeks into the semester, the amount of larcenies is on track to surpass the 36 reported in total in the Police Beat last semester.

Although reports have been made of major break-ins of on-campus buildings, a large number of the recent thefts have been of laptops, ID cards, money from wallets and bicycles. This influx of robberies should have anyone alarmed. The threat of having commonplace electronics and petty cash stolen has forced students to act more cautiously and recondsider leaving their objects out in the open.

This brings into question the University of Mary Washington’s so valued and esteemed honor code. Reminders of the principle of honor are continually present in student life. When applying to UMW, prospective students must write an essay describing what living by an honor code means to them. At orientation, students take part in an Honor Convocation, which involves the recitation and signing of UMW’s honor pledge. In most classrooms here, students write an honor pledge on every test and paper they hand in; the simple 20-word phrase that so many students can recite off the top of their head is a constant reminder of our choice to abide by an honor code. However, there appears to be a surprising and unexplainable rise in the blatant disregard of this commitment.

The honor code is something that many students take seriously, yet lately we have failed to live up to the standard we set for ourselves. Students should not have to worry about whether their money will be stolen from their coat pocket while working out at the gym. Students should not have to pack up their laptop and books and carry them with them every time they need to go to the bathroom while studying at the library.

These may seem like simple precautions, but they are ridiculously unnecessary. Some may find the University’s devotion to the honor code to be exaggerated and incessant, but, at its base, our commitment to honor is about respect for one another.

As peers, we should naturally respect one another, and we should not even need an honor code to instill that within us.

The pledge that we live by at UMW is just a simple reminder that stealing an open laptop at Simpson library or rifling through wallets for petty cash at the gym is an absurd and inexcusable crime to commit against one another.


  1. 2010 alum

    The honor code at UMW is valued and esteemed? UMW’s honor code is a joke. It’s 152 words in length and its intent is watered down by language such as “agree to abide by,” “I resolve to refrain from,” “in the event of,” and so on. UMW should consider revisiting its honor code and reforming it along the lines of what West Point has: “A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do.” Or perhaps the US Air Force Academy: “We will not lie, steal, or cheat, nor tolerate among us anyone who does.” The message is crystal clear. Simple. If UMW really cherishes the honor of its students, it might consider adopting VMI’s variation of the honor code. The code is the same as West Point’s, but there is only one punishment for breaking the code–expulsion. This occurs in a “drumming out” ceremony where in the middle of the night the entire corps of cadets is woken up and made to stand at attention while the cadet who violated the honor code is marched off of the campus. Simple, effective, and I daresay that the memory of watching something like that will stay with someone for the rest of their lives–which is the ultimate goal of an honor code, not just to prevent cheating and theft, but to nurture a personal sense of honor that is carried throughout one’s life.

    We should respect each other naturally as peers? Respect has to be earned. UMW and liberal arts colleges in general expend so much effort trying to teach the lesson that one should respect all people, regardless of color, creed, orientation, etc. It’s a nice thought but it dilutes the meaning of respect. To respect someone is to hold them in esteem for some personal quality or action, not by sheer happenstance of being born in the same cohort as yourself.

  2. Hm

    Hey alum, I’m interested in your POV because my experience at UMW has largely been one where people value and uphold the Honor Code. I don’t particularly agree or disagree with your points – they’re all valid – but could you elaborate on why you feel the honor code is a joke? Students weren’t honorable in your experience?