I hold that the members of the Bowdoin administration and of the Judicial Board are guilty of breaching the College’s Academic Honor and Social Code.

Their crime is one of coercion. They use the implied threat of dismissal from the College to force students into signing an agreement and—by making them sign in groups—to use social pressure to prevent dissent.

According to the very agreement we are all obligated to sign, they are subject to formal disciplinary action.

At the start of each academic year, every first year sits with the rest of his or her floormates around a large, rectangular table on the second floor of Hawthorne-Longfellow Library. Surrounded by a group of people—who will, for most first year students, comprise a makeshift family—each person must sign the document placed before him or her by the chair of the Judicial Board.

The first line of this document declares, "During matriculation, members of the incoming class must agree to the statement that reads: "I have read, understand, and agree to abide by the Academic Honor Code and Social Code."

I remember sitting in that room wondering, when, throughout the entire application process, had I been informed I would have to agree unreservedly to this code?

Admittedly, the College’s Academic Honor Code and Social Code is a highly ethical document and I find nothing inherently wicked in it.

It encompasses expectations that everyone should have of true scholars. Why wouldn’t you sign it if you have nothing to hide?

My concern, then, is not with the Code itself, but rather with the method in which students are pressured into signing the agreement.

The document states that once students have studied and are familiar with the Academic Honor and Social Code, they will sign a statement that reads: "I have read, understand, and agree to abide by the Academic Honor Code and Social Code."

There is no room for negotiation—as if to study and be familiar with something were synonymous with assent.

I remember wondering what the punishment would be if I didn’t sign it.

Forget about the awkwardness and embarrassment that would result if I made a scene in front of the students I had just met. If I didn’t sign it, would I even be permitted to attend Bowdoin?

Instead of venturing to discover what would happen, I obediently and uncomfortably signed my consent just like every other first year student.

The first article of the Social Code states that "conduct which is unbecoming of a Bowdoin student" constitutes a breach of the Social Code. Of the examples given of such conduct, one is coercion.

I argue that the compulsion through imperative language—through the implied threat of not being able to attend Bowdoin (and, especially, through social pressure to sign the agreement) is tantamount to coercion.

I don’t mean to dole out accusations, and I do believe that the Judicial Board and the College administration hold our best interests at heart. But in order to give an example of what I consider a more civilized form of honor code, I want to mention another small liberal arts college.

At Haverford, two-thirds of the entire student body must ratify the honor code every year.

If the ratification fails the first time, the students have three choices:

a. To vote to ratify the honor code and give their reasons.

b. To vote to ratify the honor code but raise objections.

c. To vote not to ratify and give reasons.

The student body then discusses changes to the honor code, and if a consensus emerges, the charter survives.

Although some think it is absurd that an honor and social code decided wholly by students could survive, Haverford’s has been in place for decades and is an integral aspect of the school’s community.

Rather than being told that they will sign the code, Haverford first years are given the opportunity to play an integral part in the creation and survival of the practice. It is not an imposed system of honor, but rather a democratically elected and drafted code.

Chris Wedeman is a member of the Class of 2015.