Summer’s cover story, “Modern Honor,” drew much mail, as you'll see below. We knew going in that it might. It would be more concerning if a report on Honor System controversy drew a collective silence.
That’s not to say all alumni support all aspects of the single-sanction Honor System. They don’t. What just about all alumni have in common is that they care about Honor—how it shaped their University experience, how it guides their lives now and the promise it holds for subsequent generations.
A few writers expressed alarm at the recent voter turnout figures mentioned in the story, seeing them to signify waning student regard for Honor. The latest vote, which came so close to eliminating the single sanction, had 34 percent student participation. The assumption is that earlier generations cared enough to turn out in greater numbers.
We thought we’d share with you historical turnout figures for sanction-related votes (see chart, below). As with the original story’s electoral data, they’re unofficial—patched together as best we could from contemporaneous news accounts. Has voter turnout declined in recent times? Yes, though maybe not by as much as you thought.
Only one referendum in 44 years of sanction votes has drawn a majority of students to the polls. That was a 51-49 percent vote in 1980 to keep the single sanction, with 55 percent participating. In the 1970s and 1980s, across eight sanction-related referenda, turnout averaged 43 percent. In the eight sanction votes since then, turnout has averaged 33 percent, a 10-point drop, but one that has been going on for a while now. By that measure, February’s 34 percent turnout beat a 22-year average.
Some letters suggested a need to redouble Honor education for current and prospective students. That’s one of many topics an Honor study commission will take up over the next few years. The commission’s goal for Honor: ensure it stays true to its foundational principles while maintaining a place of primacy in student life.
Which is exactly how we’d describe the newest building on Grounds, the Rotunda. This issue’s cover story takes you on a behind-the-scenes tour of the all-but-completed 4-year restoration, from Carrara marble to acoustical plaster. Should the Honor System undergo reform, may it be accomplished with the same functionality and fidelity.
S. Richard Gard Jr.