Virginia, a Land without Honor

Students at the University of Virginia once upheld the tenets of the Honor Code as an absolute ideal. Lying, cheating and stealing were impermissable behaviors… no exceptions. The penalty was expulsion. But those high standards are being corroded by moral relativism, situational ethics and rank opportunism.

An introduction to a story in The University of Virginia Magazine starts this way:

Warning to hard-core U.Va. traditionalists: What follows may upset you. Simply put, the University is changing—and has been for decades. So, too, is the Honor System.

While polls find that students endorse an honor system in concept, they appear less willing to hold each other accountable, preferring to leave the heavy lifting to an increasingly skeptical faculty. Meanwhile, fueled in part by a high-profile public trial last fall, critics charge that students’ unwillingness to impose the single sanction—permanent expulsion—allows some guilty students to go unpunished. Clearly, U.Va.’s Honor System is in danger of suffering irreparable damage.

In a society that does not uphold honor and integrity as supreme ideals, lies, dishonesty and corruption are sure to follow. Nowhere is this trend more evident than in electoral politics. The disgraceful news out of Washington, D.C., speaks for itself. But Virginia is not immune. The Old Dominion has become a place where candidates for high office routinely vow not to raise taxes then turn around when they get elected and raise them…. And no one, not even the Fourth Estate, the so-called guardian of the public trust, holds them to account. We get the politics we deserve.

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5 responses to “Virginia, a Land without Honor”

  1. kingfish Avatar

    Take a chill pill, Jim. It’s quite a stretch to equate the decline of the honor system at UVa and the Governor’s decision that we need a dedicated and reliable source of transportation funding. I drove to and from New York for ODU’s NIT appearance and it was easier to get in and around the Lincoln Tunnel than it is to get through the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel. That may not be impotant to you with all of your fine, wide roads in the Richmond area, but it’s awfully depressing to me here in Va.Beach.

  2. Anonymous Avatar

    Oh please, UVA traditionalists are living the myth and were living the myth thirty years ago when I formed my opinion of Mr. Jefferson’s overrated Academical Village. Hard to get in, impossible to fail out, the home of the Gentleman’s C. The single sanction has always meant that only the worst offenders got tapped, unless of course the offense was to forget to wear the uniform or to object to the alcohol driven culture. (To hell with politics — let’s start a fight over our schools :)!)

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    The school I went to had a slightl different and long standing honor system. Under that system you were not required to turn another student in. If asked about an infraction in the course of an investigation, you were prohibited from lying. That system seems more attuned to the real world than the UVA plan.

  4. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Kingfish, I don’t have an ethical problem with the Governor’s judgment that “we need a dedicated and reliable source of transportation funding.” I have a problem with him announcing a plan to raise taxes by $1 billion a year shortly after being elected on a platform of saying he would not raise taxes in the absence of a constitutional lockbox protecting the transportation trust fund. I have a problem with him raising taxes on the basis of a justification he never mentioned (or certainly never emphasized) during the campaign.

    Let’s put the shoe on the other foot. Let’s say that Jerry Kilgore campaigned on assurances that he had not intention to ban abortions. Then, let’s say, two weeks after being elected, he surprised everyone by introducing a law that would significantly curtail abortions. You would have something to say about it — not only the legislation itself but the fact that Kilgore deliberately obscured his intentions in order to get elected.

  5. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    I think Jim is right. There are considerable similarities between the UVA situation and Tim Kaine’s election campaign. It wasn’t just the lock box that was critical to Kaine’s election. He won big in NoVA and other similar areas because he was the first statewide candidate to say it’s foolish to approve more development when the transportation system (and impliedly, other infrastructure) cannot support today’s population. An awful lot of people and not just Democrats agreed with that logic and put Kaine in the Governor’s chair because of that campaign position. Yet once in office, he quickly ran from that promise without making any reasonable effort to twist arms just as he is about raising taxes for transportation — something he said he wouldn’t do without the “infamous lock box.”

    Say what you will about Jim Gilmore and the wisdom of his policies, but he, at least, kept his promise. Even Mark Warner, who told TV viewers every morning that would not raise taxes, could fairly say he faced a much larger deficit when he took office than had been expected. Moreover, Warner at least made a few budget cuts before he promoted higher taxes a couple years later.

    While I had very high hopes for Tim Kaine, I find it hard not to be disappointed in his basic failure to walk his talk. Kaine’s 180 on land development simply makes his campaign a joke on many voters.

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