The following is a slightly-abridged version of a speech given by math teacher and Senate advisor Jim Carlone '88 to the Upper School student body on August 26, 2015. The Senate is the student body charged with upholding McCallie's Honor Code, adjudicating guilt and recommending punishment.
Good morning. Today, I am going to talk to you for a few minutes about the Honor Code and the Senate. When McCallie alumni are asked what they remember most about their time here, they inevitably choose one of three things: their relationships with their teachers, the bonds they form with their fellow students, and the Honor Code. It is my hope that we can remember how fortunate we are to have an Honor Code – some schools have nothing of the kind and can only dream about how to create one that has respect from its students and faculty. We are incredibly lucky because our honor code will be 110 years old this January, and it has become one of our most cherished traditions.
Let me start by introducing the members of this year’s Senate. Mr. Ken Henry is the other Senate advisor. He and I work together to hear cases and either one of us might need to talk to you if an incident arises. The Senate itself is made up of a total of 10 students – each one elected by you through an e-mail nomination and voting process...
If you ever have any questions about the Honor Code please ask one of us. You can always turn to one of us if you are ever in doubt about what the right thing to do is. Of course we all make mistakes and none of us is perfect, but we’ll do our best to help you.
As you know the Senate hears cases that primarily involve lying, stealing, cheating, plagiarism, and some computer misuse. We do not deal with cases that involve discipline issues like drinking or excessive demerits. Most of our honor offenses are very easy to understand. Stealing, for example, is pretty straightforward. If you take something that does not belong to you, you have stolen. If you “borrow” something without the owner’s permission, even if you intend to return it, we consider that stealing.
Most of you understand the definitions of lying and cheating as well. Lying is any attempt to deceive. For example, telling a lie directly to a teacher. Telling the attendance officer that you missed a class because you were at a doctor’s appointment when you really just skipped or slept through your alarm. Reporting a false time on a sign in sheet. And using a fake ID.
Of course, you need to understand that our honor code is based on the assumption that the vast majority of our students do the right thing most of the time. We give you the benefit of the doubt.
If a teacher asks you why you weren’t in class, for example, and you in a state of panic say something that isn’t true, every teacher at McCallie will give you the chance to come clean and tell the truth. It only becomes an honor offense if you repeatedly lie or if you allow a deception to continue for any significant length of time. Come clean and tell the truth no matter what. If you know you have lied to someone, correct the untruth as soon as you possibly can. Come and see me. Go directly to your teacher. Go to your advisor. Talk to one of the deans. Go to any adult you can find and tell the truth. Many of our lying cases could have been avoided if the student had simply come clean and told the truth before it was too late.
Concerning cheating: I urge you to keep your eyes on your own papers, don’t tempt yourself with strategically placed note cards or books on the floor, in your pockets, or in the bathroom. Keep your smart phones stowed during tests, and please be extremely cautious with take-home assignments. Your teachers will outline specific instructions, but you need to be completely aware of what your expectations are for each pledged assignment. Do not collaborate with anyone else on an assignment you know you are to work on alone. Do the work yourself. Do not work with a tutor on a pledged assignment. And finally, do NOT bring any books, notes, or study guides of any kind into the Learning Center Testing Room.
As far as computer misuse is concerned, you should not do anything with your computer that would constitute lying, stealing, or cheating. Most notably, do not electronically misrepresent who you are, send an email as if you were someone else, or borrow passwords, files, or documents from anyone else without their permission.
Perhaps the most difficult honor offense to get a handle on is plagiarism.
Your teachers will spend a great deal of time discussing the appropriate ways to document your work. A couple of things about plagiarism: First, you cannot use someone else’s words or someone else’s ideas in your work without acknowledging that they weren’t yours. If you copy something directly from another source (a book or the internet for example) without putting quotation marks around it, you have plagiarized. If you paraphrase someone else’s ideas without putting an internal citation in your paper, you have also plagiarized. Basically, if the words aren’t yours or the ideas aren’t yours, you need to say so.
So how can you avoid plagiarism in your papers? First and foremost, you must give credit whenever you use another person’s words, ideas, opinions, or theories. Put quotation marks around everything that comes directly from another source. If you are trying to paraphrase, make sure you are not just rearranging or replacing a few words. Put an internal citation right there in your paper – either a page number or a website, or a statement like “According to so and so...” to indicate that you didn’t come up with that thought with your own brain. And if you are ever unsure about whether you are plagiarizing or not, please see your teacher or go to the Writing Center for help. If you are ever tempted to simply cut and paste because you are running late and want to get that paper turned in, it would be far better to ask your teacher for an extension than to risk an honor violation.
If you are ever turned in for an honor violation, you will first meet with Mr. Henry and me. If there is enough evidence to call a full meeting of the Senate, we will do so. Most of the time, the meeting will happen that very afternoon.
The Senate’s main purpose is not to punish or humiliate, but rather to teach. We also try to maintain student confidentiality at all times. No one on the Senate discusses a case outside of the Senate meeting. There must be a unanimous vote of the Senate members for a student to receive a guilty verdict.
Of course, as I said before none of us is perfect, and we all make mistakes. Everyone believes in the Honor Code. It’s a great system. But it’s not enough to just believe in it.
Living honorably is a choice we make each and every day of our lives. And it can be a struggle. Being honorable is doing the right thing even when you have something to lose by doing it.
When you tell the truth to a teacher even when it gets you in trouble. When you take responsibility for not studying and just do the best you can on a test – even if you fail it and your parents get mad at you. When you turn in a paper late because you wrote it yourself – even if you get points taken off. When you are willing to accept the consequences for doing the right thing. And if you think that’s easy to do – you couldn’t be more wrong. I know what it is like at McCallie. I was a student here myself. I know the pressure that you put on yourselves, I know the pressure that your parents put on you, I know how difficult the course work can get, and I know how overwhelming and stressful life here can sometimes be. You’ve probably heard me say that about 90% of the honor cases I’ve seen could have been avoided. They happen because you get swamped, you run out of time, you’re worried about your grade, you don’t want to fail a quiz that you didn’t study for, you don’t want to let your teacher down, you’ve got to turn in that paper before you get a late penalty, or you don’t feel like you could ask your teacher for help or an extra day. Even though you might not believe it, it is always better to take a late penalty or even to get an “F” on a quiz or a test than to commit an honor violation. You always have a choice to do the right thing.
Just remember, don’t ever be afraid to ask a teacher for help. If you need more time for a paper or an assignment, ask. If you get swamped, tell us. And even more importantly – you can always make up a failing quiz or test grade, earn points back, or raise your GPA. Grades can always be brought up, and when it comes right down to it, they are not really that important in the grand scheme of things. They certainly do not define who you are as a person. In the long run, very few people truly care what grades you got in high school. But they will care immensely if they feel they can’t trust you.
I appreciate your attention, and I wish you the very best of luck this year. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help you. Thank you.