Chief Justice's Speech

The Honor Code

Chief Justice Lily Elsner ’14
September 3, 2013

As we begin this academic year, I would like to remind you that the aspects of Wellesley’s community related to the Honor Code are built upon 94 years of high expectations. All of us are reaping the benefits of a robust Honor Code, upheld throughout generations of students, who made difficult choices in hard times. All of us are reaping the benefits that our predecessors cultivated through navigating iterations of the same hard choices.

This year we are tasked with upholding this legacy, as we have inherited such privileges as self-scheduled, unmonitored exams; secure belongings in public spaces; and even being able to have “dissues”—for any of you who are unaware, that is the chronic issue of dishes being taken out of dining halls and not returned, but instead left scattered, festering in nooks and crannies of higher floors of residence halls.

I stand before you today as the Chief Justice, to fulfill my duty and enjoy the opportunity to raise awareness of Wellesley’s Honor Code. In a few moments, I will ask you recite the Honor Code with me, to reaffirm our commitment to it. Before we do so, I would like to take a few moments to appreciate the gravity of what we are about to do.

To demonstrate this, I shall share a nugget of wisdom I gained through adjudicating Honor Code hearings. After my very first hearing sitting as a member of the Honor Code Council panel to hear a violation, I shed a tear or two out of the enormous sadness that swelled in my chest upon leaving the room. For in that moment, I realized the sad and stark truth about Wellesley’s Honor Code violations. Wellesley students do not deliberately break the Honor Code. There is rarely, if ever, malintent from their perspective. We, lulled into the comfort of the safe, sheltered environment left by both the efforts and the wake of mistakes made by our older sisters and siblings, begin to think that a violation would never happen, thinking to ourselves, “I would never break the Honor Code.” We have the privilege of thinking that honesty, integrity, and respect in ourselves and in our community are given.

That sense of security and trust can be broken in a moment, a moment in which we forget to stop and think. There indeed is never enough time, and in the “crunch” we can quickly be tempted to make irrational shortcuts, or ridiculous choices, that we never would have had we just been thinking straight. Ah, the key is there. The ancient adage, “Check yourself before you wreck yourself” is widely applicable when considering actions in light of the Honor Code. I implore each of you to think before you act, in all aspects of life. To build in a mechanism to stop yourself, even for a few silent seconds before committing actions. In the words of the ever-relevant Mad Eye Moody, practice “CONSTANT VIGILANCE.” Revel not only in the existing comfort that the Honor Code provides us, but examine your daily actions or inactions for where you put into practice the tenets of honesty, integrity, and respect. Remember too, that you are not committing to the Honor Code alone. While you are making yourself accountable to the community, recall that we are all striving to live lives of honor. Ask for help, ask for guidance, ask for permission, rather than finding yourself begging for forgiveness. Through communication and practice, I believe we can together uphold the tradition of the Honor Code, for another successful year to come.

I also hope that as our voices reverberate through these walls in unison on this first day of classes, our words and actions throughout the year will so too echo the Honor Code, resounding through the Academic Quad, the Science Center, West Side, East Side, the Sports Center, up and down Central and Washington Streets, through the roads of Boston, the country, the world—ringing of honesty, integrity, and respect.

Bearing these considerations in mind, it is now my pleasure to invite students and faculty to stand with me and recite the Honor Code, which is printed in your program.

As a Wellesley College student, I will act with honesty, integrity, and respect. In making this commitment, I am accountable to the community and dedicate myself to a life of honor.

I would like to thank you once again for bestowing the distinct honor of electing me to be your chief justice, and I eagerly look forward to serving you all. I wish you an excellent year.