Editorial: reapplying the honor code

Posted by The Editorial Board

The same day the Daily Gazette published a column praising fellow Liberty League member Union College's new honor code, Skidmore College saw a breach of its own. Late Thursday night, Oct. 4, 13 signs across campus were vandalized with black and pink spray paint, as reported in "Unknown subject vandalize on-campus signs."

As the Gazette article so rightfully advocates, honor codes are an important facet to any secondary educational institution but have unfortunately become a rare fixture in the present day--only about 100 or so colleges or universities in the nation currently have one in place. As one of the few campuses with an honor code, Skidmore's administration has done its best to make students aware of the implications of signing the code, but it seems to have fallen upon deaf ears of at least one member of the community. While this is far from being the first incident of vandalism on campus, the scenario enters grey territory in determining who will cover the costs of repairs. According to Skidmore's Room and Board agreement: "Responsibility for damage to an individual room/apartment is assumed by the resident(s) of that room/apartment...[and] Repair of damage to common areas throughout the residence hall system is shared equally by each campus resident."

Questions of fairness aside, these policies do not seem to apply to the situation at hand. The issue is determining what happens when a case of vandalism takes place outdoors. According to a member of the administration, if there's an instance of destruction not limited to a residential building, the whole school is billed, though the plan for handling this most recent incident has yet to be revealed. The same person emphasized that this policy is not for the intention of teaching a lesson, but has simply been used as a method for covering the costs of repairs.

Regardless of this rationale, it seems unjust for students to see an increase to an already burdening tuition, especially when there is no proof that the perpetrator was even a student. Even if this incident amounts to a negligible addition, which it probably will, the principle seems like it will do little other than perturb the student body. The culprit is hardly punished, and no more so than the rest of the community.

When similar incidents have unfolded in the dorms, the Room and Board policy of spreading the cost has served as a method of pushing witnesses to come forward and present the proper authorities with the miscreant's name. In a situation like this, however, the chances of anyone being cognizant of the perpetrator's identity is ever more unlikely, but we are bound to the College's rules and regulations by the honor code, thus we have to follow them.

When you arrive at Skidmore you are required to sign the honor code, in fact, the College has taken up new measures this year in guaranteeing students' understanding of its importance by having first year students sign the code in front of President Glotzbach during his reception for them early in the Fall. The code explicitly makes clear the fact that it applies to all aspects of college life and is no way limited to academics.

It's hard to protest the effects of an unfair policy amidst a controversial situation such as this one, but the fact of the matter is that the only way we can avoid such instances is by ending vandalism on campus. The 2010-2011 academic year saw between $26,000-$27,000 worth of repairs due to student mischief, and while the heartening reduction to a sum of just under $16,000 in 2011-2012 makes it seem like we are moving in the right direction, it is not enough. Someone has to foot the bill, and it is not the administration's fault when students decide to act irresponsibly.

In the end, this incident simply circles back to a theme that has been prevalent lately on campus and alluded to in other recent Skidmore News editorials, such as "A smoke-free campus." If we are going to solve some of the biggest issues on campus, all we need is to do is to respect one another. The honor code abides us to "be considerate of the rights of others," and if the perpetrator of this most recent case of vandalism had considered that while pulling out his spray can, maybe the rest of the Skidmore student body would not be seeing an additional sum added to their tuition.  

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Unknown subjects vandalize on-campus signs