Absolute Standard

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If who we are and what we become is truly the result of our accumulated individual decisions, by what absolute standard shall we be guided? If a person desires to live a life of integrity with decisions governed by principle, they deliberately choose to belong to communities of honorable persons. Sharing high ideals, uncompromising values and a life built on trust allows each member of the community to strive for their highest aspirations without being tethered by base emotions like fear, doubt, and mistrust. Davidson College is an exemplar of such a community and I have a great passion to be a member.

I entered high school with the naiveté that all students possessed high levels of integrity. However, I quickly became aware that cheating was prevalent at this particular school. Immediately, I informed my teacher about the situation, yet he took no action beyond rearranging the seating chart. The situation deteriorated and I contacted my guidance counselor to change my class schedule. Although she assured me the problem would be resolved, months of inaction prompted me to search for schools with an honor culture. When I discovered Cincinnati Country Day School, the intensity of the honor code fit my personal values, and I did not mind driving an hour each way to be a member of an honorable community.

Davidson’s honor code is not a piece of paper but a set of core principles by which a community chooses to live. The honor code includes the requirement to report violations because an unethical act damages the entire community. The effects of Davidson’s honor code are also prominent outside of the classroom. Davidson’s new “no loan” policy for financial aid speaks volumes about its character and commitment to members of its community. As an active and responsible leader, I will seek a position on the Honor Council to fulfill some of my obligations to the community.

The implementation of honor codes in colleges that haven’t incorporated them into their community will be an ineffective way to minimize plagiarism and cheating. Schools may not foster an environment conducive for honor codes because of the extreme emphasis placed on grades and competition. Many schools adopting honor codes still utilize anti-plagiarism software, symbolizing a lack of trust in the honor-bound students. Personal success is not necessarily linked to ethical values and students that support the creation of an honor code do not need it, while those that oppose its implementation will not adhere to its rules.


Though there are potential drawbacks of an honor code, Davidson’s code adequately addresses each issue. The framing of the students’ signatures to abide by the honor code symbolizes the mutualistic relationship that exists at Davidson: While students enjoy more freedom, professors grade exams worry-free, knowing with full confidence that the exam is a reflection of the student’s individual work.

Being a member of this honorable and trustworthy environment is totally consistent with my personal values and will shape my decisions for the rest of my life.





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