By Natalie Butz
One of the best things about college is that it’s like a dress rehearsal for real life. You have all the freedoms of an adult life without having to worry about rent, a full-time job, or how to balance a checkbook. You’re allowed to make mistakes and have a big enough safety net to catch you from almost any fall. Experimentation is encouraged, mistakes are expected, but at some point, you do need to need to be held accountable for your actions.
WC is pretty lax when it comes to discipline. To some extent, it’s expected. This is a small community and before long, you know everyone and become very close with professors, staff members, administrators and students. Because we are a small liberal arts school, students can have many second chances based on their associations with alumni, extracurricular activities, or even just influential parents. Those who go before the Honor Board have ample chance to prove their innocence or at least prove they have learned from their mistakes.
But sometimes, there are drawbacks to this community being so close. When everyone is so interconnected, the Honor Code doesn’t become objective anymore and it is easier to get away with offenses.
For example, what does it say about the college’s reputation when a student who has committed a felony is allowed to continue their education here? What does it say about the effectiveness of the Honor Board when the same student commits the same crime a little over a year later?
The college has grown in prestige over the years. New dorms, new performing arts center, new dining hall, new president, larger incoming class. But no matter what we do to improve our infrastructure or boost our Princeton Review ratings, in the end, what really matters are the students at this school.
Why demand less of students? Yes, we’re a small liberal arts college, but why lower our standards and demand less than the excellence and integrity expected at a large university?
Yes, it sounds hokey, but the behavior of one individual reflects on all of us as a community. Lowering the standards we hold students to takes away from everyone else’s accomplishments?
Should rules always be followed to the letter and should exceptions never be made? Of course not. But when the college starts to demand less of its students, it’s doing more than writing that one kid a get-out-of-jail free card. It’s also sending a message to the student body that the rules in the Student Handbook don’t apply to everyone. It sets a lower bar for student achievement. It tarnishes the name of the school and it takes away from the pride we should all feel to be at Washington College.