Please, Honor Code Me
The opinions reflected in this OpEd are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of staff, faculty and students of The King's College
One of the main reasons I chose The King’s College was because of its honor code system.
My senior year of high school, I threw a party that got busted by the cops. The officer said it was just a noise complaint, but some of my friends got drinking tickets that night. I was blamed for that, so I stopped getting invited to parties and lost most of my friends. After that experience, I wanted to stop drinking and surround myself with people who cared about me and not just the parties I could throw.
So when I arrived to King’s thinking things could be different, I was shocked to find out a lot of students drank underage.
My first semester spent at King’s was sober. I surrounded myself with people who followed the honor code and genuinely encouraged me to think about my heavy drinking in high school. Most of these friends had never had a sip of alcohol in their life, whereas I grew up in an environment where drinking was acceptable so long as you were responsible.
In my friends’ eyes, alcohol was evil. Conversations about my high school days created a cloud of shame around them. When I went home for fall break, my mom welcomed me back to the house with a bottle of Rosé - our favorite - but I declined because of that shame. Drinking had started to scare me.
When I lost my race for helmsman second semester, I was so distraught that I turned back to the one thing that I knew would help me calm down: drinking. I only drank three times, one time being Spring Formal. The only thing I remember is the seven shots I had beforehand.
The next day, four of my good friends confronted me, as I was underage.
Those conversations stemmed from a place of love and concern for me, instead of just “honor coding” me. These friends knew my past and wanted me to be better. I’m thankful that my first experience with the Honor Code was a positive one, because I know many people who haven’t had that.
When I came back for my sophomore year, I promised myself that I wouldn’t drink, but I quickly went back to my old ways. At first, I felt guilty after I drank, and would wait a few weeks between doing it.
Then I stopped caring about it, and everything else.
I lived with my house’s Chamberlain, and I started sneaking around and lying to her or anyone else who I thought would honor code me. I made what I thought were cooler friends, both inside and outside of King’s, and left behind the ones who seemed too prudish.
By the end of the year, I applied to be Director of Student Events on the Cabinet. I had never wanted something so badly, and I knew I could do the job well.
After a few interviews with then-Student Body President Michael Martinez, he sat me down and said, “I want you on my team, but if I give you this job, you have to stop partying. I don’t care that you’ve done it in the past, but you can’t continue if you’re going to be representing the school like this.”
I hadn’t realized how much going out affected my reputation and the opportunities I wanted. And by that point, I felt like drinking had become my whole identity, just like it had been in high school, and I wanted to find my identity in something else.
Desperately searching for a way to get out of the drinking scene, I accepted.
I never realized the beauty of the honor code until then - until I started to take it seriously for myself rather than for the sake of other people’s opinions. I no longer had to hide the fact that I struggled with drinking and was finally able to have conversations with people who also secretly struggled, but I also cut myself off from the friends I drank with and spent a lot of time alone.
I’m not perfect, but sometimes I felt like the honor code expected me to be, especially because of my involvement in statesmanship. While I felt like I had the support of my friends, I didn’t always feel like I had the support of the school. There were countless times when I considered walking into one of the Student Life offices and confessing everything, but I felt like they would have stripped away everything that I had worked for.
Eventually, I couldn’t take this pressure and the feeling of being left out, and started going to parties again, only to realize I wasn’t missing out on much and quickly lost interest. I finally felt like I had outgrown it.
When I turned 21 this summer, one of the first things someone asked me was, “Are you excited to not worry about being honor coded?” Yes, of course I am excited that I can legally drink now, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room to still get honor coded.
I still lie. I still cheat. And I definitely still turn a blind eye.
I now understand that the point of the honor code is forgiveness, and it only encourages you to lie if you’re talking to the wrong people.
"Instead of trying to get to know people, I would put them at a distance if I thought they would report me."
I think King’s would be a much more open and safe space if everyone came together to abide by the honor code; if we were all able to share our problems without fear of punishment, the school would feel like more of a home, and maybe even become a more Christ-centered community.
While I don’t necessarily feel ashamed about drinking anymore, I now realize that it was selfish of me to put the enjoyment I got from drinking above my care for the King’s community.
Instead of trying to get to know people, I would put them at a distance if I thought they would report me.
It got to the point where I only talked to the people I drank with. Although I found community with the drinking crowd, it wasn’t a community that always encouraged me to grow.
Thus, I was shamed for not going to a party by one group of friends and shamed for going by another group. A part of me thought my drinking was justified and counterbalanced by my involvement at King’s, as if each side helped the other grow, but looking back, both suffered.
For the people at King’s that have never struggled with substances, know that I think it’s hard to expect every young adult who has just left home for the first time to not experiment with alcohol.
Know that there’s a difference between honor coding and checking in on a friend - one is a legalistic act and one comes from a place of genuine concern. Know that your overly cautious and often misinformed presumptions about those who are struggling doesn’t make you more Kingsian, but more judgmental.
Please know that paying more attention to the act of drinking than the person doing it just hurts you both.
For the people who have, know that King’s is not out to get you. The honor code was set up with a purpose, and the wording of it is not meant to make you feel unwelcome. You’re at King’s for a reason, and the Honor process is slow and forgiving because of that. If you’re confronted, it’s most likely because it doesn’t seem like you genuinely want to be here. And know that only those who don’t understand the purpose of it will use the honor code against you, while those who do will instead seek conversation.
Following the honor code is a choice, and only you can make it an easy or a hard one.It’s not only something you’ll have to navigate during your time at King’s, but also for the rest of your life.
Personal honor is something each of us has to develop, and it takes longer for some than others. But you can help encourage that development by keeping your friends accountable - not because you have to, but because you want to.
So now that I’m legal, you can bet that some nights you’ll find me at White Horse drinking a whiskey sour, but know that I’ve been through enough to understand that I can only have one.