Letter to the Editor: Clarifying the historical record on the Honor Committee| Dec 12, 2017
To the Editor,
I write to share clarification and historical context in response to the letter by former Honor Committee chairs that was published on Monday, Dec. 11. The authors declare that for violations of the honor system, “in 1893, Princeton students settled on a consequence — one-year suspension...” In fact, for the majority of the Honor System's existence, the standard penalty for Honor Code violations was expulsion. A one-year suspension was not a listed penalty in the Constitution of the Honor System until 1974.
As indicated by the editor’s note to the former chairs’ letter, when undergraduates first adopted the Constitution in 1895, the recommended penalty for sophomores, juniors, and seniors was expulsion, while the recommended penalty for first-year students was suspension. By 1904, the standard penalty for all students was expulsion.
In 1921, undergraduates amended the Constitution to allow for “leniency in exceptional cases of violation of the Honor System” — suspension for at least one semester, but only after a unanimous vote of the Honor Committee at two separate meetings. Nevertheless, the standard penalty remained expulsion.
Only in 1974 was the Constitution amended to explicitly allow the Honor Committee “a direct choice between permanent expulsion and one-year suspension.” Finally, in 1980, the standard penalty students faced changed to “suspension for one year.”
Zhan Okuda-Lim ’15, Former U-Council Chair and U-Councilor