The Role of Honor in Discipline
Those people that fall short of embracing honor and integrity in their own life often look at many of the efforts of the Honor Committee and the chain of command as attempts to ensnare well-meaning cadets. Some perceive the Honor Court to have a similar concern for the Corps as the guillotine did for the national security of France throughout the "best and worst of times". In reality many changes in policy stem from an effort to reduce or eliminate grey areas in the application of the Honor Code. It is precisely these grey areas that cause confusion and an appearance of incongruity to the Honor Committee.
One of the latest examples of one of these situations is the recent change to the confinement sheets. There is a grumbling on the air around the Corps of the new sheets being written to use the Honor Code to enforce the blue book; this is precisely opposite of the intention of this change. The old sheets implied that the signature of a cadet on the confinements sheet indicated that he or she 'sat' a proper con in the previous hour. There had been cases where cadets were pulled for signing for a con when they had left for a substantial portion of the hour, or had 'served' the entire confinement in someone else's room playing video games. The application of this left it up to a Hearing to decide how 'improper' a con had to be to constitute an honor violation, which would be decided on a case-by-case basis. This situation unacceptably left confinements, a fairly basic and, in some cases, frequent part of cadet life, one of the greyest issued involving the Honor Code.
The best means available to rectify the situation was to clearly separate what portion of a confinement would fall under the honor system and what portion would merely be an improper con. The result was to make the confinement to a cadet's room the only thing communicated by his or her signature. Any violation of the military standard of a con would fall under the discipline system. An exception was made, providing cadets the opportunity to write EC (extenuation circumstances) in place of their initials with an explanation if something came up that caused them to leave their room that should not prevent them from receiving credit for the confinement. The unit commander reviews these explanations to validate the confinement for full credit.
There are those that argue that there should be nothing official communicated in a signature for a confinement. What then is the purpose of the signature? To merely communicate that you were not caught breaking the rules during the last hour? Or to confirm your presence on campus? That is the purpose of restrictions. Furthermore, think of the precedent that such a policy sets: if cadets with confinements routinely sign for punishments they did not serve it breaks the Spirit of the Code, essentially training them to lie. Such a system creates a propensity or momentum that would carry over to other areas of life where the lines are not so grey, resulting in more honor violations and, not less importantly, a skewed sense of integrity and honor.
The confinement sheets were changed out of an effort to protect the Corps from ambiguous standards. The change has established the role of integrity in the punishments system, while eliminating long standing grey areas that have, themselves, proven pitfalls for Cadets. In no way is the use of the Honor Code for the enforcement of discipline issues condoned, yet there are certain aspects of cadet life, like punishments, where they are inextricably linked. This should not be seen as an undue hardship on the Corps but the most realistic experience possible, as honor cannot be disassociated from other facets of life.