"A cadet does not lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate those who do." There are few phrases that, while maintaining such a level of simplicity, necessitate such a dramatic change of lifestyle. For some, the Honor Code is the pinnacle of a cadet's virtue, to others it is something of which to be wary, and finally, there are those that offer it nothing but embittered cynicism. It is left for us to discern: what should it be?
While there are many elements of our environment that set members of the Corps at The Citadel apart from all but a few other universities, none are so deeply intertwined in the very heart of the institution and the values it seeks to instill in its graduates as the honor code. The military rigors will quickly fade into memories for all but a select few of the graduates from each class. The academic successes achieved here will soon be overshadowed by each person's future performance in their respective fields of profession or study. Even the camaraderie built between classmates will weaken with the passage of time. Can we not hope that our dedication to honor will be preserved? Or will it slip away, jumbled amidst half forgotten knob knowledge and fond memories of triumphs and travails?
Such preservation can only take place if we effectively create an environment on campus that accepts nothing less but the highest degree of honor on and off campus. We must view the Honor Code as nothing more than the minimum standard, resolving to adhere to the Spirit of the Code. What standard is set by the internalization of the Spirit of the Code? A standard that there is the same duty to act honorably when the situation does not involve an official statement; choices must be made based on their moral implications and not their consequences.
The honor system is designed to instill honor and integrity in the character of each graduate, not merely to correct cadets' behavior for the short time they are under the code. While some regulations are purposed to maintain safety and order in the Corps in the short run, the overall intent of the entire four-year system here is to develop lifelong strengths of character and discipline. How much more is this true of our Honor Code?
This process will not work unless the Corps embraces the Spirit of the Code. Many lose faith in the honor system because they disapprove of the results of certain hearings. While there are situations that are disappointing, how much of a greater loss is it if the entire system is rendered ineffective by its widespread rejection? We cannot guarantee that all violations of the code will receive merited punishment, but the honor system has already been successful if you, as an individual member of the Corps, commits to living honorably.
The guidelines outlined in this manual are a good place to start in the development of honor in your personal life. To truly dedicate yourself to honor you must go further, striving to allow honor to guide all of your actions whether public or private. If you feel that the burden of living with integrity is too great, or the cost too dear, I would encourage you that its merits will be clearer and its performance more natural with time. Aristotle said: "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act but a habit." Determine yourself to respond honorably in the countless, seemingly unimportant, everyday situations and you will be guided by momentum to adhere to your principles in the face of adversity. The effort you invest in this pursuit will change the course of your life, eliciting the respect of your superiors, peers, and subordinates. Do not doubt the intrinsic worth of your efforts: "a good name is more desirable than great riches" Proverbs 22:1.
(Daniel Clinebelle, Cadet Lieutenant Colonel, Chairman, '04-05 Honor Committee,
, March 2005)