What does it mean to join the Community of Trust?

September 12, 2014
What does it mean to join the Community of Trust?

“On my honor, I pledge that I have neither given nor received help on this assignment.”

An entire culture at this University has grown out of this phrase: a community of trust. Entering first-years have probably written a similar phrase on every high school test they’ve ever taken, but they will soon find out that the notion behind this pledge extends far beyond the promise of keeping your eyes to yourself.

As I begin my third year, trust and safety have become synonymous with much of my experience at U.Va. Yes, I am incredibly guilty of leaving my laptop in the library for 10 hours while I get my Bodo’s/visit friends/go to the gym/go back to Bodo’s for a study break. While no sane human should ever do this, at UVA, it is considered perfectly normal.

But beyond my irresponsible penchant for leaving my belongings everywhere (only to find them perfectly in tact when I return from my break), the trust and safety I speak of has deeply impacted my intellectual life.

Entering this University means entering a community in which academic integrity is at the core of every classroom experience. During my time at UVA, I have often felt incredibly lost and confused about my academic interests and goals, yet, one aspect has remained unshakable: I have always felt respected, appreciated and confident in my work and opinions in a classroom.

Why is this? We belong to a community of trust and this inevitably enables a community that celebrates personal achievement and intelligence. To me, “don’t cheat, steal, or lie” has turned into a gratifying challenge to reach my greatest potential on my own.

Yet do not mistake this claim for a competitive and cutthroat, “every man for himself” attitude.

As a student who has felt this immensely competitive pressure to succeed, I also fully acknowledge the pitfalls of the honor code, a “high horse” standard that up until last March negated the possibility of forgiveness for students who violated the code.

However, with a new honor plea that allows students the chance to return to the University after a years leave if they confess to their infraction, I have faith in a community of trust made stronger by forgiveness, while still honoring the original intention of this shared commitment to honor. More than anything, UVA'’s high standard for academic honor has given me the freedom and safety to be academically curious and take chances, even if it ends in failure. Being part of the community of trust means not just trusting others, but most of all trusting yourself to hold your own, and when you do this, you will thrive.

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