Op-Ed: Do the Right Thing

June 2, 2011, 12:22 a.m.

“We find beyond a reasonable doubt that you violated the Honor Code.” These are the words that no student ever hopes to hear. However, as a judicial panelist for the past two years, I’ve had the unfortunate experience of informing students that they have been found responsible for violating the Honor Code and/or the Fundamental Standard.

Most students never plan to violate the HC or FS. Moreover, many students fail to realize the actual implications of their actions until it’s far too late. As we finish up the quarter and tackle our final exams, projects and presentations, I offer you a word of encouragement to take extra precautions to avoid making a mistake that could earn you some very unfortunate consequences.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Brandon, Judicial Affairs sucks! The process is too long, the sanctions are too harsh and the staff is simply out to get us.” In my time working with Judicial Affairs, I’ve heard all of these complaints and many more.

Regarding the length of the process, there’s no question that it’s currently too long. Cases often take months on end to get resolved for varying reasons. One can only try to imagine the anxiety a responding student goes through day in and day out from the moment she receives her first notice to the actual day of the hearing.

And what about sanctions? While the full range of the penalty code ranges from a formal warning to expulsion, the standard sanction for first-time violations of the Honor Code is a one quarter suspension and 40 hours of community service. For seniors and graduating students, panels have typically issued a two-quarter delay in conferral of their degree. Wanting to get away from Stanford is one thing. Being forced to take a break is simply something you don’t want to be faced with.

Finally, before you give the staff a hard time, I don’t know anyone who has a more stressful job on this campus than the members of the Office of Judicial Affairs. Nonetheless, I can tell you this. If you ever find yourself reporting or responding to a possible violation, you will be treated with the utmost respect and care and will be guided through a process that, in spite of its flaws, is just and fair.

Am I here to scare you? Yes — but I’m also here to help you avoid making a mistake that far too many have already made before you. As we go into this last week and you find yourself in the middle of a stressful situation with a tempting or easy way out, I encourage you to take a step back. There’s no grade or class worth jeopardizing your entire academic and/or professional career. Talk to your peers (not about your assignments), talk to your professors, talk to me if you want if you see the potential for error. Not only can you prevent yourself from making a mistake, but you can also prevent others from doing so too. If you see something, say something before a violation occurs.

Believe it or not, all of this Honor Code jazz, along with the current Judicial Charter, started with us — the students. A little less than 100 years ago, we stepped up and said that we were willing to take responsibility for our actions and to hold each other accountable. That meant that regardless of who we were, male, female, black, white, athlete, international student, wealthy, low-income, drama major or CS, we were all accepted to this great University and accepted the condition of upholding the respect and honor that sets this institution apart from many others. It’s because of this declaration of integrity that our Stanford degrees still mean something special in a world filled with great lies and deceit.

I believe Spike Lee said it best — just “do the right thing” (notice the quotes!).


Brandon Jackson, ’12

Student Co-Chair, Board on Judicial Affairs



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