In Response to: Honor System Revamp?

When I retired in 2003, after 31 years as Princeton’s first in-house lawyer and then as vice president and secretary of the University, one of the principal matters of unfinished business I left behind ­­­— with substantial regrets, worries, and misgivings — was adjustment and “restatement” of the Honor Code, which is clearly a core element of Princeton.

During my tenure we had (in our own minds at least) barely withstood a lawsuit (including a trial lasting more than two months) on behalf of a student who challenged basic elements of the Code — which were of course devised in an entirely different era. Other challenges, within the University itself and legal, seemed inevitable.

The problems that needed to be addressed, as I saw them, were both deeply conceptual (most importantly the inevitable confusion and conflation in today’s hyper-litigious America between the Honor Code — decidedly non-legal in its goals, purposes, and procedures — and civil or criminal court trials); and also matters of technical adjustment (for example, “papers” greatly overtaking “exams,” and the enormous impacts of technology on research and instruction).

While I do not know the specifics of the proposals now being considered on campus as the result of student, faculty, and administrative deliberations and recommendations, I am strongly encouraged that these important issues are being addressed in this way. Reform is an essential part of conserving the most important values.

Thomas H. Wright ’62
Vice president and secretary emeritus, Vieques, Puerto Rico