Bob Dole and Sigmund Freud, Bob Bork and Cary Grant, Passing the Calculator, and Other Matters. Honor on the Campus

(FORTUNE Magazine) – The late word from central New Jersey is that Princeton University is still not ready to put its Social Honor Code into practice, and yet the present writer has not removed the code's controversial DIWTIC rating, as it continues to impress him as a Dumb Idea Whose Time Is Coming. Working in its favor are the usual campus-level radical-egalitarian impulses, the dependable cravenness of university administrators under pressure, and the Haverford precedent. Yes, friends, Haverford College already has a social honor code. Social honor codes are stated by their adherents to be a logical and natural extension of the academic honor codes long in effect at many of our better schools. The general idea about academic codes is that the students pledge not to cheat on exams or plagiarize in term papers; many of the codes also require ratting on others observed to be in violation. Since the penalties for violation can be severe, frequently including expulsion, and since this is the land of Only in America, the academic honor codes have generated a vast body of case law about the rights, responsibilities, and privileges of accused students and their accusers. At Wake Forest, for example, a suspect student has the right to what is in effect a jury trial. He also has the right to counsel at the trial, the right to cross-examine witnesses, the right not to testify on his own behalf, the right to insist that such refusal to testify not be used to support a presumption of guilt, the right to appeal the judgment, and quite a lot more in this vein. At the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, the judicial apparatus seems less fully developed, but the regulations include a fascinatingly detailed warning for students taking math exams. Warning: If your calculator loses power during the exam, and you have to borrow one from a nearby student, be sure to advise the instructor about what is happening and enable him to check that the calculator has been turned off when you receive it and thus could not be used to dishonorably lateral-pass any hints about correct answers to celestial navigation problems. The social codes would extend the honor system from the realm of exams to that of everyday life. The code at Haverford, a small liberal arts college near Philadelphia, is backed by the usual judicial infrastructure and embraces ''all aspects of campus life.'' It is intended to prevent any behavior at all that ''represents a violation of community standards.'' We were unable to find a definitive statement as to what these standards might require, but presumably Haverford's Orienteers, as such persons are actually called, make it all clear to the freshmen in their charges. The detailed code being proposed at Princeton -- it originated in the university's Women's Center -- is at once reasonable and insane. If ever successfully implemented, it would have a considerable impact not only on boorish behavior but on ordinary conversation, and it raises fascinating questions about the on-campus meaning of the First Amendment. Students would apparently be required to pretend that they think all groups are alike and equally lovable; at least that seems to be the thrust of the rule that one cannot insult or exclude others because of their race, ethnic background, religious affiliation or beliefs, or class origins. Since Princeton is already committed to nondiscrimination in every known institutional context, the only imaginable application of these new regulations would be to informal social arrangements. These would also be affected by the proviso that all students agree in writing not to antagonize or patronize others because of their sexual preferences, however amazing, or to tolerate bigotry based on class differences or religious beliefs. The draft proposal does not state plainly how Princeton would decide which remarks were counted as patronizing or antagonizing. To be sure, a decade or two of litigation should make it all clear.