Friday, September 18, 2009

UVA Honour Code and the Section B Bird

Don't lie, cheat or steal.

That is the crux of the UVA Honour Code, a highly respected, student-run system at UVA that means we get to take our finals at home. Another big advantage is that I can set up my laptop in my classroom in the morning and leave it there until I pack it up again at 1:10. The Honour Code assumes the best of people and provides a very secure environment.

I could probably tell you more about it, but there is a lot more information at the UVA Honour Code site that I would encourage you to check out instead.

There have been two distinct events this week that have provoked me to think about what it means to be a part of the UVA honour tradition.

First, I was summoned for jury duty. Basically, if someone is accused of an honour offense, they have the opportunity to be tried before a jury of their peers. This was a much more pleasant concept before I was summoned. At the same time that I want to uphold and support the honour system, I also treasure my weekends greatly and am hoping that the whole trial will at least be an interesting experience. (Fortunately, I only have one day of the proposed 12 or so that I could actually attend trial. When I joked with one of my friends about making plans for that day, he pointed out it would likely be an honour violation to do so.)

The second event this week that provoked me to think about the honour code will require some background information. The Darden first year class is divided into sections. While sections are technically only together for one semester, section loyalty runs long and deep. Sections are also very rich in tradition.

One of the sacred traditions of Section B is the bird. The bird is given at the end of the week to a student who made the wackiest or most ridiculous comment of the week. The bird is also a member of Section B who comes out to parties and is carefully guarded.

WAS carefully guarded.

Yesterday (or, early this morning), the bird was stolen. Somehow, in this honour-entrenched institution, it is part of the tradition for Sections A, C, D and E to steal the bird and make Section B do something to get him back. I haven't quite figured out how this all reconciles to the command not to "lie, cheat or steal," but last year Section B had to perform the Lion King during First Coffee in order to get the bird back. I have already volunteered to coordinate the music should something similar be required.


Rachel Busby said...

In Bavaria, there's a long-standing tradition of Maypole stealing. Since every village or institution has it's own maypole (Maibaum), others can still it, and then to get it back, they have to throw a party and give lots of beer away.

While there are many stories about Maibaum pranks, some involving burning villages, my personal favourite is when the Munich city police stole the Maibaum from the Airport. Um, aren't airports supposed to be the most secure buildings there are?

At any rate, Maibäume are exempt from traditional ideas about stealing. It's the ultimate prank. (Seriously, it's a massive tree displayed in a prominent location.) Seems to me the bird might also fall under this category.

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