By Blake Odom
Here at W&L, we maintain an “honor system” and not an “honor code”. This distinction is important as we have no existing list of “activities worthy of honor violations.” Rather, the Executive Committee members must decide on a case-by-case basis whether a student has breached the community’s trust. Because of this, students develop their own sense of what is honorable and dishonorable. It doesn’t take knowledge of past honor violations or complicated theory to know that using a cheat sheet on an exam or plagiarizing a term paper is dishonorable. So should taking an unprescribed study medication to complete schoolwork be considered a violation of our trust? I think many of you would disagree.
I must first mention that I do not condone tasking unprescribed medications. I myself have had a prescription for one these types of medications for ADD since I was a freshman in high school. There is a reason why these medications require a prescription, and having spent the last few years regularly meeting with a doctor, I understand why medical oversight is necessary. Students who sell or take unprescribed meditation are breaking the law. Plain and simple. The Student Judicial Council currently deals with this as a violation of W&L policies on controlled substances. It should stay this way. A student who takes an Adderall he bought from a friend to prepare for finals does not deserve to be sitting in front of the EC.
If the EC were to decide a case that sets a precedent, in effect labeling unprescribed study drugs an honor violation, it would ultimately be damaging to our honor system. As I noted above, the incredible vitality of our honor system lies in the unique respect each and every student pays to it. We don’t avoid lying, cheating, or stealing because we fear the wrath of the EC; we maintain honor because we know we should and expect our peers to do so. If study drugs were to be considered an honor violation, some people would most likely continue to use them unprescribed, given the low-likelihood of being caught, coupled with a belief that they should not be considered an honor violation. This would ultimately harm our notion of honor. The knowledge that a considerable portion of the student body is willingly violating an honor system precedent is extremely dangerous to what truly makes our community of trust so strong. Each student’s unwavering respect and sense of responsibility is why the famous W&L honor system remains so dynamic and personal to this day.