Another look at the past
By biconews On 22 Feb, 2000 At 05:00 AM | Categorized As Archives | With 0 Comments

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In any given college guide’s description of Haverford one is confronted by the ubiquitous reference to the Honor Code. Peterson’s website has this to say: “An Honor Code is created and directed by students and is an important element of the Haverford community. The Honor Code allows students to directly confront academic and social issues in a spirit of cooperation and mutual respect.”

Looks good, right? On paper Haverford is such a place whether it wants to be or not. In material released by the Admissions Office, and in profile after profile, the college takes shape in accordance with a strong connection to its Quaker past and to the academic and social expectations engendered by that legacy. Still sound right?

In truth few students at Haverford have not heard the familiar anti-Code rhetoric that is thrown around from dorm rooms to the bonanza that is Plenary. There are the guys sitting next to you in the bleachers muttering “screw the code” under their breath before they hurl yet another roll of toilet paper at the clowns dancing stage center. There are those who sit you down and argue convincingly that the foundational principles of respect and concern don’t work in the “real world.” There is the unfortunate individual who, with a look of utter indifference, announces during customs week that he wasn’t aware that Haverford has Quaker roots.

And let us not forget that the Honor Code was ratified by a mere five votes on Sunday.

In spite of what a thousand college guides put forth so convincingly, Haverford often fails to live up to its esteemed reputation.

We must tread lightly though, when expressing our frustration, lest we forget that there is much to celebrate. First and foremost, we still discuss these matters. The seed of indifference, and in some cases contempt, has not yet germinated. As is the case with so many difficult yet worthwhile challenges, most people know something is wrong. The only problem is figuring out what to do about it.

There can be no doubt that Haverford can no longer be the school for white Quaker boys that it once was, which is surely a very good thing. There is no doubt that with an ever-increasing diversity of viewpoints and changing educational expectations, a unifying message of faith and conduct becomes more and more difficult to maintain. No one can reasonably assume that diversity is a bad thing, or that the curriculum that was required of students here in 1890 should be the only one available today. Yet we must not forget that the challenge posed to a diverse society is to find a middle ground on which all views may be shared and even understood. The lessons of men such as Rufus Jones need not be ignored by a college less committed to Quaker values than the one he knew. The basic ideals of peace and kindness are just as relevant today.

But the way we search for them must change.

This Friday and Saturday Haverford will host a conference on nonviolence and will welcome, among others, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi to discuss the cause of nonviolence and to

celebrate the life of the slain leader. The discussion may not revolve around Haverford and its Quaker past or its Code, but let there be no doubt that the conference will have everything to do with those things.

If we fail to celebrate the leaders who guide us to the ideals of peace and respect, we risk losing our commitment and direction altogether. This conference represents a new voice speaking on a common theme at Haverford. In a changing world our ideals must change, but we should not lose sight of those truths that are timeless. As long as the discussion occurs, no matter the form, the possibility of renewed commitment and understanding to those truths is not lost. After this most recent Plenary, have a nice, restful week and come to the conference on Friday.

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