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Washington and Lee University

Washington and Lee University
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The Honor System

The Honor System is one of Washington and Lee University’s most important traditions and traces its roots to the mid-1840s at Washington College (W&L's name from 1813-1870).

During Robert E. Lee’s presidency (1865-1870) the Honor System under which students live today took form. Lee placed tremendous trust in the students by transferring the System’s primary administrative duties from the faculty to the student body. Even more important, he did away with the former written rules and regulations and established one central idea: that each student "conduct himself as a gentleman." (W&L has an equal number of gentlewomen on campus today.) As a result, today’s understanding of the Honor System has one central tenet, that breaches of the community’s trust will not be tolerated. Examples of such violations include but are not limited to lying, cheating and stealing.

Around 1905 administration of the Honor System was invested in the all-student Executive Committee, which holds that responsibility to this day. The Honor System is remarkable for its strength and its student-run nature. Each generation of W&L students takes responsibility for maintaining the standards of civility and integrity so visible around campus. Importantly, students are trusted – by professors, deans, W&L’s president – to ensure the System’s efficacy and to enjoy its benefits on a daily basis.

Trust, safety, student autonomy- just a few more reasons that W&L is such an unusual place.