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.