The Honor Council Dilemma (HigherEd)

HigherEd Prompt:  The Honor Council Dilemma

Nancy was proud to be participating on her college Honor Council. She was expected to behave with the utmost integrity and she had added responsibilities. She enjoyed the opportunity to serve her college.

Nancy had many friends and her birthday was fast approaching. Julie headed up the effort to get Nancy a special present – tickets to her favorite group’s upcoming concert. Everyone really wanted the present to be a surprise for Nancy. Julie decided the best approach was to put the concert tickets on Nancy’s desk in her dorm room. As a senior on campus, Nancy had her own room in one of the best dormitories. When her birthday finally arrived, everyone pretended they’d overlooked it, and Julie devised a plan for the surprise.

While Nancy was in class, Julie lied to a campus security guard, telling him that she’d locked herself out of her room. She convinced the guard to let her into Nancy’s room, and she left the present sitting on Nancy’s desk.

When Nancy first discovered the tickets, she was elated about the opportunity to go to the concert, and touched by how many friends had pitched in to make this happen. As she began thinking about the situation however, she wondered how the tickets and card could have landed on her desk. She inquired gently, and learned that Julie had lied her way in.

Now Nancy feels she’s faced with a dilemma. She is a member of the Honor Council and feels she has certain standards to uphold and respect. While leaving a present in her room was harmless, lying to get in might not be. Julie did a nice thing for her, but what if other Honor Council members found out? If she overlooks the incident is she showing favoritism to Julie and undermining the purpose of the Honor Council? Yet if she knows that Julie’s intention was completely well meaning and an act of freindship wouldn’t it be heartless and unfriendly to raise the issue?

[FROM:  http://www.globalethics.org/dilemmas/A-Camera-in-the-Classroom/209/]

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47 Comments

47 thoughts on “The Honor Council Dilemma (HigherEd)

  1. Leaders have a moral, ethical, and legal expectation to act accordingly. For utilitarian reasons, they cannot allow their personal relationships or values interfere with their deontological responsibility to act appropriately. To that end, Nancy must return the gift, discuss the incident with her friend, notify the Honor Council, and report the incident to campus security.

    First, Nancy stated herself that her new role required her “to behave with the utmost integrity.” Faculty, staff, and other students might view Nancy’s acceptance of the gift under these circumstances as tacit agreement with her friend’s actions. As such, acting with the utmost integrity means that Nancy cannot accept the gift from Julie and her friends. Julie violated the school’s honor code by lying to campus security to deliver the birthday gift. In returning the gift, Nancy separates herself from any potential impropriety, duplicity, and appearances of favoritism.

    Second, Nancy needs to explain to Julie the dilemma created by her actions and possible consequences of her actions. Nancy must confront Julie regarding her unethical behavior. The conversation, no doubt, will be difficult for both. However, Julie’s action has serious ramifications for the security of the campus and integrity of the Honor Council. As a friend, Nancy needs to let Julie know that she must report the incident to the Honor Council. She will have to explain that Julie’s behavior may result in disciplinary action. Although Nancy may graciously thank Julie for the gift and decline to accept it, the conversation and subsequent disciplinary action may irreparably damage their friendship and relationship. However, Nancy is duty-bound to do the right thing for the Honor Council and her college. She cannot allow her personal relationship with Julie to cloud her judgment or to show favoritism.

    Third, Nancy needs to notify the Honor Council of the incident as soon as possible. She will need to describe Julie’s behavior and to explain her own actions in the incident. By reporting the incident to the Honor Council expeditiously, Nancy reduces any perceptions of unethical behavior of her own. Moreover, declining the gift lends credence to her stance as acting with utmost integrity. Furthermore, Nancy will need to recuse herself from any deliberations or decisions regarding the incident. The recusal will allow the Honor Council to render a decision consistent with the school code without any perceived influence from Nancy. More importantly, the recusal will dispel any perceptions of favoritism by the Honor Council or Nancy.

    Lastly, the Honor Council needs to report the incident to security. Julie’s access to Nancy’s dorm room resulted from Julie lying to the security guard. This breach of security raises serious questions as to the overall safety of the campus. The campus security should review their standard operating procedures to ensure the highest of security standards. They should consider having their security protocols audited by an external and independent auditing firm that specializes in security. Additionally, the campus security should conduct training for all personnel, including the guards, to make sure they are following the standard operating procedures, such as checking for identification prior to unlocking a dorm-room door. The college was lucky, if this incident was the only breach of security. Lack policies and procedures could potentially jeopardize the college’s reputation and more importantly the safety of those for whom they are entrusted to protect.

    In conclusion, Nancy needs to act with utmost integrity. She must return the gift, speak with her friend, and report the incident to the Honor Council and the campus security.

    • Tammara,

      I agree with the process you outlined in regards to notifying the council. Nancy needs to do what is right, notify council so the honor policy can be reviewed. What this shows is that Nancy is acting with integrity. Depending on what the policy says, the punishment can be dealt out accordingly.

      I do feel for Julie, as her intentions were to be a good friend. But, the one thing that I have learned in my context is that “no good deed goes unpunished”.

  2. Cheaters versus Ignorance

    For the last 10 years I have taught undergraduates at the college level. When students turn in written assignment I require all paper go through plagiarism program. This allows students to see what percent of their paper is verbatim from another source. At least 50% of the time students with sections of plagiarism do not realize their mistakes and are allowed a rewrite. Instead of automatically sending all instances of plagiarism straight to campus for action I first sit down and discuss the ethics of the issue with the students. After conversations and rewrites I almost never have to turn in students for there indiscretion but instead use these as teaching moments at an interpersonal level.

    Reach Out not Rat Out

    I disagree with Tammara’s approach to this issue that requires her to return her gift and turn in her friend. Yes. Nancy is an honor code officer and she has to weigh the consequences of her turning in her friend. She is not the lead honor code officer and her friend Julie was not malicious in her honor code violation. Turning Julie in could create blight on her academic record and the loss of a friendship.

    Interpersonal Communication

    Nancy should speak with someone about this matter: a trusted teacher or other honor code officer hypothetically talking through her concerns. Nancy is a student and developing leader who should yield to the advice of her mentor rather than taking an outright hardline stance.

    It is also important that even if Nancy decides not to turn in Julie they should discuss the lie told to the police officer. Nancy should express her concerns to her friend and perhaps even have a mediator involved in the process.

    Addressing the indiscretion committed by her friend on an interpersonal level can protect her reputation and friendship.

  3. Chris:
    I truly appreciate your stance on Nancy not turning her friend. You make a valid point regarding the potential consequences for her friend, especially, in light of the naivete of her actions. However, the assumption of your argument and mine is well is that the Honor Council will act in a specific way. Your assumption, I would gather, assumes that the Honor Council will use her to set a precedent. My assumption is that the Honor Council will consider the delicacy of this matter and handle it with circumspect and leniency. With that said, the Honor Council could give forgive the incident, give her probation, or community service. It again is my assumption that the Honor Council would have at their discretion the option to not mar her academic record considering that the problem is not so much her action, as it is a flawed security protocol on the part of the campus security.

    Moreover, it was Nancy who stated that she wanted to “behave with the utmost integrity.” Had that not been her stance, I would agree with you. Thank you for taking the other side in this discussion, it was refreshing.

  4. Report (primarily a Deontologic response): Clearly, Nancy must report her friend’s ethical and legal transgressions. Julie lied to a security guard serving in a law enforcement position on campus and violated Nancy’s privacy by entering her dorm room without permission. This demonstrates a lack of respect for Nancy and the rules of the university. If Julie has such poor integrity, what else is she up to? If she would lie and trespass for such a silly reason, what else could she rationalize is reasonable? This could be the tip of the iceberg. The ethical principles of veracity and non-maleficence have been violated. Deontological theory requires that Nancy focus on the clear violation of the principles, not on what consequences Julie could face. The decision should be made not on the possible outcomes, but on the principles at stake. A deontological ethicist would say, “What would happen if each of us engaged in the same behavior as Julie? What would the world look like if everyone shrugged their ethical duties?” Principles apply all the time, not only when they are convenient. The fact that Julie, in her own mind, was not being malicious is irrelevant. Her lack of malicious intent does not give her a free pass to violate the rights of others. Nancy has made a promise of sorts to the Honor Council that she will uphold their principles. By choosing not to report Julie’s behavior, Nancy would be engaging in a lie of omission (violation of veracity), breaking a promise to the Honor Council (violation of fidelity), and showing favoritism to Julie as a friend (violation of justice). After all, if Nancy is willing to cover up this infraction, what else would she be willing to overlook? What is the point of having an Honor Council if its members don’t have the integrity and maturity to recognize violations?

    Don’t report (primarily a Utilitarian response): The greatest good should be sought. Julie’s plan was kind and thoughtful (but poorly executed). Julie’s apparent violations (lying and trespassing) were not malicious, and any harm she caused through violating Nancy’s privacy and causing her stress is far less than the harm that Julie could face if the Honor Council’s penalties are severe. The concert tickets appear to be intended to be a birthday present, not a bribe (based on the information in the scenario). To report a poorly executed birthday surprise as a crime does not demonstrate respect for the authentic purpose of the Honor Council. With ethical duties comes an obligation to use good judgment and common sense. A utilitarian would say, “How can the greatest good be achieved in this situation? We should choose actions that increase the overall happiness for the stakeholders.” Julie demonstrated poor judgment and placed her friend in a difficult situation. If this situation can be resolved through thoughtful discussion between Nancy and Julie, then the desired outcome has been achieved. The greatest good for the university will be achieved if the Honor Council is used appropriately; is there really an expectation that every transgression will be reported? Underage drinking, cheating on boyfriends, giving false reasons for absences, even gossiping…these are all violations of ethical principles. Does the Honor Council really need—or want—to deal with each and every shortcoming that the university’s students display? This would be an enormous distraction for the University, and would represent a lack discernment regarding appropriate action—similar to Julie’s transgression.

    Best regards,
    Debbie

  5. To be a part of the college Honor Council means a commitment by the members to uphold values of truth, integrity, and honesty. Nancy belonged to an important council where members are expected to hold their own peers accountable when the above values are violated. Nancy does understand that Julie’s actions were unitentional but she is faced with evaluating between lying vs. friendship.

    Such dilemmas are faced by college students at one point or the other in their lives. Working in Student Affairs especially in the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities, students were faced with ethical dilemmas. Some examples are such as: a student observing a good friend cheat on a paper? or a student hearing a friend blatantly lie to a faculty about the reasons for not turning in an assignment? Students would normally ask what is my role in this situation? Should I be doing something about it as the person is my good friend? The answer to these questions are not simple. In this case, Nancy should ask herself the following questions before making a decision?

    a) Did Julie’s lie impact the residential community?

    b) Has Julie done this before where she has entered someone’s room by claiming it as her own?

    c) What could be the impact of such a behavior in the future?

    d) Did Julie have other alternatives for surprising Nancy with the concert tickets?

    e) What is Nancy’s responsibility as a member of the Honor Council?

    Julie’s lie may not have impacted the residential community as nothing went missing in Nancy’s room. However, Julie claimed someone else’s room as her own to a campus security guard. This situation of lying is similar to a student claiming someone else’s words or ideas as their own for a short term benefit. Plagiarism is considered as an unethical decision. In this case should Nancy be thinking about intentions vs. unintention rather than the action which is “lying”. In addition, did Julie have other alternatives such as slipping the tickets under the dorm room or asking friends to plan an evening out and then surprising Nancy by taking her to the concert. The last question Nancy should ask is what is her responsibilitu as a member of the Honor Council? If a similar incident is brought forward to the council by a student, would there be actions taken? If yes, then Nancy should follow the protocol and make the right decision.

  6. I have to laugh…I sat on honor board as an advisor to a campus group.. It is abundantly true that this type of situation “matters”. I disagree with Tamera’s approach of returning the gift. I think it is harsh and sends the wrong message. I think, looking back at a number of situations I had to “rule” on, it tells the individual that there is no “learning curve” and mistakes are not tolerated. We all are “works in progress” and even those with the best of intentions make mistakes. For this reason, I would first advise that Nancy talk this over with the advisor who hopefully suggests that she then talk to Julie to explain the situation she has been placed in. The discussion should be a “learning tool” and one accusatory as I am fairly certain Julie’s heart was in the right place. After this chat, both Julie and Nancy should notify security (explaining the details and promising never to do it again, etc.) It might even be nice if a formal letter of apology was written by Julie explaining her understanding of what she has done and the gravity of the situation. Next is to bring the matter up to the Honor Council and explain what steps were taken.

    • I agree with you, Dana. This is a very difficult situation. On one hand, Julie violated privacy laws and gained entry into Nancy’s dorm illegally. On the other hand, she did so in order to do something nice and without mal intent. For this reason, I think returning the gift would send the wrong message. Julie did not intentionally do anything wrong, and Nancy returning the gift would likely send a message that she did not care about Julie’s kindness.

      I would recommend that Nancy talk with Julie about the situation and let her know that while she deeply appreciated the gift, she was uncomfortable with the circumstances in which she received it. She should mention that given her role in the honor council, she felt that she was put in a difficult position. Perhaps she could then suggest that the two of them talk with the honor council adviser to seek his/her guidance.

      In the end, I think it would be very easy to “overreact” in this situation and make a bigger deal about the situation than was necessary.

  7. I think that this would be tough. She wants to be appreciative, but also not play favorites in a situation that needs to be reported. I think that I would share the situation with the Honor Council, but explain what her intentions were in hopes for some grace in the situation. If I knew that the council would get her into trouble (serious trouble), I probably wouldn’t share it. It says that she is a member of the council, but an official? It probably shouldn’t matter. But, if it was me, it would depend on my accountability to the council as well as the possible effects for sharing.
    Tough one!

  8. Nancy is such a prune to even thinking about reporting what Julie did to the Honor Council. Yes, Nancy was proud to be participating on her college Honor Council. She was expected to behave with the utmost integrity and she had added responsibilities. She enjoyed the opportunity to serve her college. How would report what Julie did serve the college? Why would not report what Julie did hurt her integrity?

    First of all we were not told what are the policy of the Honor Council. what is the purpose of the Honor Council? What are the guidelines? What are the responsibilities of the Honor Council members? Are there Honor Codes? If so, what are they? We are not given enough information to make any judgement or any suggestion for Nancy. The first thing that cross my mind when I heard “Honor Council” was that this is the student council that trying to keep the academic integrity, i.e. prevent students from cheating on the tests or homework. To me lying to the guard to get into a friend’s room and leave a nice birthday present should not violate any honor code. What Julie did, first of all, did not hurt the reputation of the college. Secondly it did not hurt the integrity of the college. Thirdly it did not hurt anybody. Why is it a problem? Probably Julie needs to be more careful in the future in selecting her friends.

    • LOL. Love it! Yeah….I think she’s being a bit of a PRUNE too. It in so many ways is subjective. I honestly think it was a bit of a gray area and I know (assuming this from what I read) this was not done with malice.

    • I agree Julie!! I truly don’t see what the big issue is. Did Julie lie? Yes, but when has someone never lied? I’m not condoning lying, but it happens and this reason sounds like a good one. What would have happened if Julie didn’t lie and asked the guard to let her into Nancy’s room to place a surprise birthday gift inside. Would Nancy now be thinking about turning the guard in for letting someone into a room that was not their own? This is ridiculous in my opinion. I’m not 100% sure the policies of the Honor Council, but if it has anything to do with this, I wouldn’t want to be a part of it.

      • I agree Josh. How far does this Honor Council go? Does it police the security guards? The administration? The cafeteria ladies? A little power can be a dangerous thing. As I said in a previous post, this sounds a lot like Big Brother. This Honor Council has way too much power, if it can turn in another student for a good deed.
        Plus, Nancy should not be a part of the Council’s decision on this issue. As a good friend, and the person who was “gifted,” she should recuse herself from the deliberations.

      • Although the “special birthday gift,” was a nice gesture by her friend, I don’t see what is the big deal either. I agree with Josh and Julie that we need more information about the honor council’s rules that governs any violations of privacy. If there are any rules that may apply here, then ALL must abliged to all the rules and not exempt the selective few.

  9. Dana, I agree that Tamara’s approach of returning the gift is harsh. I also believe Nancy should seek council from someone she trusts (whether another member of the honor council or advisor) about this occurrence, but not until after addressing the issue with Julie firsthand. Julie, although well intentioned implicated herself in breaking some basic safely rules that under a different circumstance, could’ve been very damaging. Being able to get into someone’s private quarters by convincing security (regardless of the reason) poses a risk, therefore cannot go unaddressed at some level. Addressing the issue does not have to require drastic actions be taken, simply posing the seriousness of the situation and tightening measures to prevent if from happening in the future could suffice in this case and may be able to be accomplished with discretion. In this case Shannon, keeping the matter quiet could resurface at a later time, which could make it an even more difficult situation. If Nancy covers her bases and addresses the situation, her integrity remains in tact and it would be of most benefit to the honor council and for the good of all students. Yes indeed, we all make mistakes, it is learning from them that helps one to grow and learn, but it doesn’t mean another person’s life (Julie’s) has to be completely put in turmoil, especially since her intentions truly were harmless.

    • Shannon, I agree that this scenario requires Nancy to make a tough decision. On one hand, Nancy must uphold her ethics and integrity as a member of the College Honor Council, but on the other she must contend to the possible consequences to her friend. There seems to be some variance in perspectives on the incident itself that leads each of us to a slightly different suggestion.

      Julie brought up some good questions that I will assume I have the answers to; How would reporting what Julie did serve the college? Why would not reporting what Julie did hurt her integrity? What is the purpose of the Honor Council? What are the guidelines? What are the responsibilities of the Honor Council members? Are there Honor Codes?
      I’ll start with the purpose of the Honor Council and its guidelines/honor codes. These are put in place as early as K-12 level, are called Character Counts, and are taught throughout the school year: Respect, Integrity, Responsibility, etc… and seem to continue in the form of Honor Council. These are extremely difficult for some of our youth to grasp and even harder for them to display in today’s society. This incident calls for Nancy to uphold those values with the careful hand of not ruining Julie’s reputation on a simple ‘lapse in judgment’.

      Dana, I agree that we are “all a work in progress” and there is definitely a learning curve in all matters. That being stated, Nancy should seek advice on how to proceed to report the incident with the least amount of ‘punishment’ to Julie. As stated earlier by many, the intent of the incident was not malicious and should be viewed by the Honor Council in that context.

      Adriana, I agree with you because I have to.

      Final thoughts, in searching for ‘the right thing to do’, Nancy must ‘do the right thing’ and deliver on her promise of upholding the integrity of the Honor Council at all times and not just when it is convenient.

      • Jesus,

        Is the integrity of the Honor Council really being challenged because her friend wanted to do something nice and surprise her? I understand the negative impact lying has on individuals, but this had good intentions behind it. I would feel sad if Nancy truly turned in Julie because she was trying to do something nice for a friend. I honestly feel we are looking far too deep into this. She didn’t take or ruin anything. All she did was something nice for a friend on her birthday.

      • Jesus, it’s interesting how you mention Character Counts. In our schools we want to instill good values to the children by promoting good character, yet we don’t always hold our end of the bargain. In this case we are talking about honesty. Should Nancy not uphold what she is representing as a member of the Honor Council? Should she promote the saying, “Do as I say, not as I do” just because it’s self-serving? It’s important to uphold one’s values and regardless of how insignificant it may appear, she must be honest.

        I agree with Adriana that she should be upfront and communicate her quandary with her friend. Based on her friend’s good intentions, it may not be a good idea to return the tickets. She may lose a friend over it. An option may be to donate the tickets to a charity of her choice as a silent auction item. By doing this, she will not feel a sense of guilt and yet she can help with a good cause.

        The situation with the guard must be addressed as well. Nancy should approach the guard and should inform him of the incident. Although this particular situation was not ill-willed, there are cases where it may be. Had this been a person with ill intentions wanting to harm to Nancy, there could have been serious ramifications. The guard losing his job could have been the least of his worries. As Dana stated previously, the guard’s “lapse in judgment” could have resulted in harm to Nancy or anyone else for that matter. This could pose serious security breaches that can potentially place people in harm’s way.

        This is definitely a difficult decision to make, but as a person in a leadership role, Nancy must do the right thing and approach the situation with transparency and honesty. This can be successfully accomplished if handled in a tactful and sincere manner. In the process, she will gain respect.

    • But what does the Honor Council really do? Do we know that? We know that Nancy is a member of it, but what kind of a group goes around making judgements about other students…especially when they do good things?
      This Honor Council seems an awful lot like Big Brother, if you ask me. Do they really walk around campus nitpicking the insignificant actions of others?
      Like I said in my response, most college Honor Codes have to do with academic integrity. It hurts the reputation of a college if students are dishonest in their academic work. Therefore, it hurts the impression of those outside the university, and allows them to make assumptions about what goes on within the university. None of us would like to see that happen, so we must meticulously monitor our collective work. But theater tickets on a dorm desk? Much ado about nothing.

  10. Adriana, you are right. It is the right thing to do to communicate what happened and explain the necessity to learn from the situation and approach a “surprise” a little differently in the future. But, I am saying it is tough. If I knew that the school would come down so hard that it could effect graduation (severe), I don’t know that I could tell on her. I agree that she does need to talk to her friend about the situation that she put herself in, by lying and getting into the dorm room. Again, this is tough!

  11. The first thing that is necessary is to establish what the Honor Council does. We have no definition, so I took the liberty of looking up the Fresno State Honor Code, which reads this way:
    “Students are charged to become familiar about expectations for academic integrity. Furthermore, students are expected to monitor academic dishonesty and to report suspected incidents to the instructor or other appropriate official for action.

    Faculty are expected to become knowledgeable of the applicable portions of the Academic Policy Manual related to establishing a climate of academic integrity and for establishing a ‘culture of academic integrity’ in individual classes and in each department. Faculty should inform you fully about how to do their assignment.

    Finally, the university administration is charged with the responsibility of informing/training students, as well as all levels of academic personnel, on its academic
    integrity expectations and procedures for their implementation.”

    So, if Nancy’s college Honor Council is based upon the same ideals, we can see that it has more to do with academic integrity, and not concert tickets in a dorm room.
    If the Honor Council says that students can’t lie, it has an awfully big job to do. Students use little white lies (akin to the dorm room issue) all of the time. Any time a student tells another student that they like their outfit, or their hair, they would have to come before the Honor Council.
    So, Nancy needs to revisit the definition and intent of her Council. It was not created to destroy relationships, or even to satisfy the power hungry. It was created for students to monitor the integrity of their academic work.

  12. Yes, a difficult situation indeed. Nancy is challenged here by the ‘ethical’ dilemma which no doubt can put her friendship at stake. When considering the AERA code of ethics one could be in a situation that challenges any of the following Principles…B: integrity, C: professional responsibility, D: respect for people’s rights, dignity, and E: social responsibility and ultimately, whether one is a researcher or member of a council (Nancy) one has the responsibility (regardless of who may be looking or is aware of a particular situation) to uphold certain ethical standards. This does not mean a ‘big deal’ is being made nor does it need to be, however bringing to light that ethics is what guides us in our decisions to do or not do something. In this case, Nancy’s friendship with Julie causes Nancy to have a ‘bias’ in how she will deal with the situation, could her not addressing the issue cause her to be ‘unethical’ as a member of her council? By Nancy not addressing the situation, might it be seen that she has something ‘personal to gain’? Regardless of what the intentions were, there were specific violations of privacy, by Julie entering a private room without permission and by being dishonest with security to gain entrance. This definitely poses a ‘conflict of interest’ and I agree that is not a situation I would like to be in either! You’re right, it is tough.

  13. Almost every day we tell white lies. Lying is sometime required in some situations.

    “Honey, do I look fat in this dress?”
     Truth: “Yes, this dress makes your behind look humongous. Since we are in this topic, you’d better cut down on your consumption of ice cream or you will be as fat as your mother”.
     Correct reply? Lied, “No, dear, you look beautiful in anything”.

    You went on a blind date. You took a look at the guy and wanted to scream and run the other way. How do you decline a second date?
     Truth: “I think you are repulsive. After shaking your hand I feel the urge of using the hand sanitizer”.
     Correct reply? Lied, “It’s not you, it’s me. I’m just not ready to settle down”.

    As defined in Merriam-Webster Dictionary, ethics, an area of study that deals with ideas about what is good and bad behavior: a branch of philosophy dealing with what is morally right or wrong: a belief that something is very important. English dictionary defined ethics as the philosophical study of the moral value of human conduct and of the rules and principles that ought to govern it; moral philosophy. In this sense telling white lies is ethical. To be considerate to other’s feeling is good behavior and a good moral value of human conduct. What Julie did was a kind and loving. Nancy should not let being on the Honor Council get over her head. She should step down from the high horse and appreciate what Julie had done for her.

    • I love what you said here Julie – I agree with you.
      If you look at Kohlberg’s stages of Moral Development, Julie was not thinking of herself, was not thinking of negative consequences (the thought of doing something unethical may not have even crossed her mind). She was very focused on one thing – honoring her friend by providing her with a very special birthday surprise. She was on a mission and determined to honor that mission. I am purposely using the word “honor” several times here 🙂
      Julie was in Kohlber’s stage 4 where she is thinking of others, not herself. But if we stay in stage 3 and say she is “being a bad girl” and we need to be “the good girl” by reporting it then we are facing a moral dilemma and not necessarily an issue about honor. As I mentioned below… look at her heart, her good intentions, and even her persistence (which can be a good quality) and take it at face value for what it was meant to be.

  14. Nancy, I understand your point about big brother monitoring a college student’s every move. I am not in favor of extreme oversight or control, but in this specific example this is not the case. We can both agree that Julie had nothing but good intentions by her actions of lying and trepassing. Yes, trepassing. The problem facing “Nancy” is she has placed herself in a dilemma of upholding the ethics/standards set forth by her Honor Council. A different way to view this is by asking the two following questions?
    Does Nancy gets to choose when and when not to exercise this ethics/standards that she freely adopted has her own and has promised to uphold?
    Will this Honor Council be effective if all their members independently decided when and to who these ethics/standards should be applied?
    Julie, yes many people tell lies and many people also trepass. In this scenario the young college girl “Julie” did both and thought nothing of it. That is the problem, she didn’t think. Through her actions “Julie” has put her friend in a tough spot.
    Nancy must seek guidance for a trusted source to advise her through the reporting process. “Nancy” would not want to create a big fiasco, but she needs to ensure the safety of the dorms by reporting the breach in security measures.

  15. I agree Jesus. The bottom line is the reason that safety should be first. Even if it is a hard lesson, the lesson won’t be learned (and others won’t take it seriously) if this is let go. Julie, being a college age students, should have known better that common sense would say it is a wrong approach. She could have had a different strategy to surprise her friend. Today, especially, people need to know the importance of rules/policies/laws and how they relate to wisdom and safety (most laws anyway….my husband would argue about some). Joking.

    • I agree with Shannon that safety should be first in everyone’s mind. We have watched through the news and media reporting on how college campuses have turned violent due to people who have committed acts of terror, simply by walking on campuses and thru dormitories shooting at random. It is important for college students who live on campus to feel safe and protected by campus directors or resident advisors. In the end, it is everyone responsibilities to watch out for another.
      In this case, these two friends need to discuss what occurred and understand the importance of the rules and policies, if any apply to them.

  16. I think that the greater issue here is not that Julie lied, but that security protocols regarding access to living quarters was ignored. This needs to be reported ASAP. Julie’s status on the Honor Council may be collateral damage of the investigation, but the safety and security of student housing should be the priority here. This situation presents evidence of significant gender bias among the security detail, as a male would not have been granted access to the room, yet a female was. There should be increased training and supervision of security to ensure that standard operating procedures are followed. How hard would it have been to check a student I.D. against the dorm assignments?

    If Julie does face repercussions for her actions, in the interest of their friendship, Nancy should deal with it gently, but make her point regarding the moral high horse upon which she’s riding. It is apparent to me that being on the Honor Council provides a context that is significant to her, and that she draws great personal satisfaction from being upheld as a role model and moderator for others’ behavior. If Nancy possesses good people skills, they may allow her to salvage the relationship, if she is gracious in conducting her explanation. This point relies significantly on Nancy’s affective disposition.

    • Kate,
      I’m not sure if security is to blame here. There is the possibility that this security person sees a lot of people during his shift and did not recognize whether she did reside there or not, he was just simply trusting her word. After all, Julie might have looked trustworthy. I do think there should be a protocol in place that requires security to check (maybe a printout of names of residents or other pertinent information) when faced with situations like this.
      Additionally, I do believe Julie’s efforts to surprise Nancy were well intended, but took it a little too far by lying. I do not care how close you are to someone, it is never okay to sneak into their home, even if it is for a surprise. I personally would not do that just because it is too risky. What if something went missing? It is not worth losing a friendship.
      Nancy should report it, and have it documented, just to be on the safe side. I do not think Julie should be punished for it, but definitely bring it to her attention and give her a warning that it was not right to lie, nor to sneak into someone’s place.

  17. My instinct is to tell Nancy to stop being such a “goody-goody”. I think Julie and the other friends were showing real friendship and appreciation for Nancy and devised a very harmless way to surprise her on her birthday. Yes, technically they broke the rules. But I don’t think they broke the “spirit” of the rule. Lying to get into a dorm for the purpose of doing something harmful is why the rule is there in the first place. There was no malice in Julie’s lie – quite the opposite, in fact. Honor councils and similar structures are invented to try to encourage people to treat others decently. That is exactly what Julie was doing. If Nancy “rats out” her friend, I think that would actually show that she doesn’t believe in “honor”, but rather following the rules at all costs, even if the rules get in the way of kindness.

  18. I am conflicted by the kindness of a friend versus the bigger picture of campus safety (procedures for lockouts). My perspective is heavily influenced by my work in university residence halls and trying to prevent access to spaces. It seems there is a lack of procedural checks and balances in the housing department to ensure students are accessing spaces which are their own. Although there was no harm in the behavior, there is potential concern for other students’ safety if campus security guards do not confirm a student’s identity before opening a private space for someone. I am not encouraging the dismissal of a staff member nor the “turning in” of her friend, but a review of policies and procedures. I would encourage Nancy to reflect on the situation and see how she can use her leadership role to make change for the student body at large. Campus safety is a major concern and this creates a broader conversation and awareness for the department and potentially students in her community.

    • I like how you “let Nancy down diplomatically”. I’m often too afraid to disobey the rules and simple tell the other “my hands are tied?. Your response invites Nancy to see the implications of her actions. You are saying no, but saying “yes” to a bigger question!

    • Jorge, I love your response! You got right to the heart of the matter. I completely agree with you that this would be a perfect opportunity for the organization to reflect on its security practices. There is no need to “get anyone in trouble”, because this isn’t really an individual issue. They could reflect on their policies, their training practices, they procedures for security checks. For example, the guard could have asked the friend for her ID (and probably should have done this). That would have solved the dilemma, although the friends would still have been stuck with their tickets. Since Nancy is part of the honor council she would be able to use this personal experience to facilitate some change. I think you come from a stronger position in a situation like this when you can point to a specific instance of the security procedures not being followed. Then the council would have a starting place for a discussion and be able to look at the policies that are in place, modify them if necessary, and think about gaps in training or implementation that should be addressed. Great job Jorge!

    • Jorge,
      Your response is awesome! With my daughter newly away at college and in light of the seemingly rise in violent university crime, safety is at the forefront of my mind. Safety can be jeopardized when an incident like this occurs. Of course, my concern would be, what if someone lied their way into Nancy’s dorm who meant her harm? It certainly raises the question of university policy.
      This scenario prompts me to reflect on a similar scenario. My best friend and I work in the same school district. The custodial staff on her K-12 campus knows that we are very good friends. In fact, we are such good friends that we each have a key to the other’s home. On several occasions, the custodial staff have unlocked her classroom door and allowed me in to leave a birthday or “just because” gift on her desk as a surprise for her when she arrives to work. I have never lied to gain entry; however, I suppose I shouldn’t technically have access.

    • Jorge, I agree with you fully. As a former resident advisor, my first thought was protocol. How did a person convince security to let her in. If Julie was told “no” from the get-go, as she should have been, since she was not a resident of the dorm, then she would have been required to find another way to surprise Nancy and the honor issue would not be an issue at all. Thanks for seeing the bigger picture of safety; that is crucial in this situation.

      • Rosemary, I totally agree with your comment. Whey did Julie need to leave the card and concert tickets in Nancy’s dorm room? Why couldn’t Julie simply hand the items to Nancy between classes, at lunch or dinner, or anywhere else? Whey did she feel the need to lie to get into Nancy’s dorm room? It just doesn’t make any sense to me.

  19. Cherie brings up an entirely new set of concerns once that level of safety is made so palpable to all of us. On the bright side, here is a new way to be “diplomatically appropriate”. Safety first!!

  20. I am going to go by the biggest Honor Code and that is from the Bible. The apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians that when there is a conflict between two individuals, they are to meet with each other first and try to find a solution. If that doesn’t work, then bring in a third person. If that still doesn’t work, then go to the committee (elders), etc.
    Julie had good intentions. God looks at the heart and that is how I base my concept of “honor”. If I were Nancy, I would approach Julie and first sincerely thank her for the amazing gift that she clearly worked so hard to get for me and all the friends who pitched in. Then I would ask her how she got it on my desk and see how forthcoming she is with telling her own tale. The goal would be that we would enter into a dialogue of asking and answering that would lead to ways that things could have been done differently without her getting into any trouble and still fulfilling the element of surprise for my birthday.
    After reaching a consensus, while preserving a friendship that Nancy values, Nancy could then approach the Honor Council, present the issue, summarize the ensuing conversation, and expressing a commitment and belief that history will not repeat itself. I believe strongly that part of honor is making mistakes and with integrity finding a way to ensure that the mistake does not occur again. Honor is not evident in destroying the character of another person nor is it seen in destruction of a genuine friendship.

    • Yes Rosemary, I couldn’t agree with you more. the bible basically sums up how it should go in lieu of these types of issues. I also agree with the method you outlined for Nancy’s presentation of this issue to the honor council, (though depending on her role and promises, I don’t know if it is necessary to go that far) she takes the situation to them, sums it up, and provides the method used to fix it. Believing in people and taking the role as a leader and teacher rather than crushing people over a bad decision shows that we are all in a constant state of progression and is an action that shows a high level of integrity.

    • Like the majority of things in life, there is a gray area of where you personally need to decide what is right and what is wrong. Yes, Julie shouldn’t have lied to campus security to get into Nancy’s dorm room. I feel that Julie was so excited about the amazing gift that she and her friends had pitched in for that she threw caution to the wind. As human beings, sometimes we just do stupid and irrational things.

  21. Way to go, Rosemary, using the biggest Honor Code of the Bible. I’m very impressed with your knowledge and application. I think that Nancy should approach Julie about the incident and explain that as much as she appreciated the gifts (concert tickets and card) that entering her dorm room by lying to campus security was totally wrong. Yes, Nancy could bring up the subject and ask Julie to tell her story of why she wanted to surprise her in such a way. Perhaps it could be a cultural ritual that Nancy may not be aware of? It may sound far-fetched, but it could be true. But the main issue is having an open dialogue with one another and Nancy telling Julie that her conduct, under the university’s Honor Code, was a violation. I beat you that Julie may have never thought about the consequences of her actions and how it may be viewed by other people. When individual become close friends, sometimes the lines of demarcation can become unclear.

    I do feel that Nancy will need to approach the Honor Council to discuss the issue and explain what had occurred. She needs to emphasize to the Honor Council that she has reviewed the issue with Jule and the intent never malicious. That she now feels that history will not repeat itself. True friends will always take the time to work through issues, it may take time, but in the end its totally worth it. Yes, honor is not evident in destroying the character of another person, nor is it seen in the destruction of a genuine friendship. Rosemary, thanks for that last sentence. You are so eloquent.

  22. Nancy has found herself in a very difficult situation, basically caught between a rock and a hard place. Due to the fact she is a member of the Honor Council she is expected to hold a high integrity as well as enforce the integrity of the institution by upholding the value system of the campus culture. Nancy is also Julie’s friend, which itself holds a high level of loyalty and a bond that can last long after college life ends. I believe discussing this situation with Julie prior to any reports made to the Honor Council would serve both the friendship she holds with Julie, as well as maintain the promises made to the council. Julie made a mistake by lying to campus security, but she did it with a giving heart and a thoughtful spirit. It seems she devised her plan to deliver the tickets to Nancy without thinking of the issues surrounding her fabrication to campus security, and one mistake in life doesn’t define a person as lacking integrity or exhibiting behavior that would lead anyone to believe she would do this again.
    When analyzing the definition of integrity, which is the quality of being honest and fair, I believe actions supporting this could be implemented in multiple ways. To be honest and explain to Julie why her choices were not appropriate and to provide her with understanding of the issues surrounding her decision, in my opinion shows Nancy’s integrity. Not always must situations be shouted from the roof tops. By informing another of the severity of their actions, and explaining what integrity at the school involves is she not holding up her position on the council?
    When Nancy took the position as a member of the Honor Council she was presented with power, which with power comes the opportunity to serve and teach her fellow classmates in regards to integrity. When serving a specific community the job of teaching, providing understanding, and information are all a part of promoting the values of the college while using her power for the better of the institution. Informing others does not show favoritism if that is the method that they usually implement. If more incidences involving Julie take place then nancy would need to report it, because once informed Julie now holds the tools necessary to make better decisions in the future. In regards to the issues surrounding the council finding out, she shouldn’t hide the fact she implemented the strategies she did. Informing peers and friends of the wrongs behind their actions in most cases is much harder then just turning them in. Also, there is no honor or integrity in bringing down an individual over a bad judgement call made in the college years. If it is possible to inspire another with your actions take it!

    • Thank you for your analysis Laura. I agree with your recommendation that Nancy and Julie should have an open, honest discussion about this situation. Julie appeared to have positive intentions; however, she overstepped by lying to campus security in order to gain access to Nancy’s room. This action was not only dishonest; it also implies both privacy and confidentiality concerns on campus. As you mentioned, Julie likely did not consider the implications of her actions. An open, respectful discussion between the two friends can help resolve this concern without the immediate need for direct mediation from the Honor Council. That being said, this scenario does speak to the need to review safety protocols within the organization. Although this individual circumstance may not need to be reported, Nancy has an obligation to encourage the council to review and reaffirm security practices to ensure the safety of all students.

      One thing I want to add to this discussion is that I think there could be an additional ethical dilemma present in this scenario. Something that is highly stressed in my field is the importance of guarding against dual relationships and conflicts of interest. Dual relationships occur when a professional and an individual they serve have multiple roles within their interaction that could potentially impact the professional’s objectivity. My primary concern related to this concept in regard to this scenario is the nature of the birthday gift Julie gave to Nancy. The concert tickets could have been quite an extravagant gift, and Nancy’s position on the Honor Council gives her a measure of responsibility and power. If receiving this gift impacts Nancy’s objectivity in regard to causes Julie is passionate about, it could constitute a conflict of interest. If this were a professional setting, the gift would likely need to be returned to Julie. Nancy needs to be vigilant to ensure that a conflict of interest does not develop in this situation.

    • Laura, yes Nancy has differently found herself between a rock and a hard place. I agree with your suggestion that Nancy should discuss the situation with Julie before any reports being made to the Honor Council. In this way, Nancy would be able to maintain her friendship with Julie and still keep her promise to the council.

      Nancy has an opportunity to teach others about integrity by being a role model to others. It’s not always easy to follow the rules and still be someone’s friend. Julie crossed the line when she had to lie to security to gain access to Nancy’s dorm room. I can’t condone that action, but I do understand how Julie wanted to surprise Nancy. I think that sometimes people don’t reflect on their actions or if their actions may have ramifications associated with them.

  23. This is a very difficult situation for Nancy, but a situation that both Nancy and Julie can learn from. Though Julie had good intentions and meant no harm from getting into Nancy’s room, Julie has to understand that lying to a security guard breaks ethical codes. I think that Nancy should first address her concerns with Julie and explain to Julie her duties as a member in the Honor Council. Nancy should also ask Julie how she would feel if someone lied and broke into her room. Julie needs to understand how one may feel scared and violated if someone was to get access into her dorm room. Lastly, Nancy should also ask Julie what actions she felt would be needed to take if someone was to do what Julie did. I believe that by doing so, Julie would realize what she did was not ethical and be willing to cooperate. Nancy can then explain the situation to the Honor Council members and encourage Julie to also join to explain herself as well. If the Honor Council members are understanding, Julie should just receive a verbal warning and be asked to never lie again to get into someones room, otherwise, further disciplinary action will be given the second time around.
    Furthermore, I believe that there should be a better system to verify residence at the dorms. If the security guard would have followed protocols, Julie would have not been able to get into Nancy’s dorm room in the first place. I believe that if proper steps are taken by Nancy to address the situation with Julie, their friendship would only get stronger, and both will learn from this experience. Nancy would learn to build her leadership skills, while Julie would learn that it is not okay to lie to a security guard or anyone to get access to someones room.

  24. This is a very difficult situation for Nancy, however it is a situation where both Nancy and Julie can learn. Though Julie did not intend to do any harm, it is important that Julie understand what she did violated some rules. I believe that Nancy can approach this situation in a professional manner where she needs to have a personal conversation with Julie to inform her and let her know that it is not okay to lie to security guards to get into someone’s room. Nancy should ask Julie how she would feel if random people falsely identified themselves to get into her room. Nancy can then explain to the Honor Council members about what had happened and encourage Julie to join so that she too can explain herself. If the Honor Council members understand, no major consequences would be given to Julie, but rather a verbal warning to teach Julie a lesson. However, it can also be communicated to Julie that if it should ever happen again, further disciplinary action will be taken.

    Furthermore, there needs to be a better system to verify residence identity at the dorms. If the security guard had followed the correct protocols, Julie would have never been able to get inside Nancy’s room. I believe that if the correct steps were taken, Nancy and Julie’s friendship would only get stronger. Through this experience, Nancy would be able to build her leadership skill, while Julie would learn that lying to get into someone’s room is not okay.

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