Honorably dishonorable

We’re beyond the midpoint of the semester, the Stevens Course Scheduler is FINALLY up, and the Registrar has already informed me that I’m missing required courses despite having submitted a course substitution form— things are just about where I’d expect them to be.

One thing I did not anticipate was my enthusiasm towards this column. Instead of struggling for weekly topics, I’m often times inundated with too many ideas! I’m not complaining about it—this means my mind is still functioning, albeit on high concentrations of caffeine and glucose.

This week, I want to talk about why I joined the Stevens Honor Board. Why do I #pledgemyhonor with sincerity? What’s the point of it all?

Okay Stevens, time to get real. Let me set the scene: Olivia Schreiber, a freshman in high school, is due to submit her To Kill a Mockingbird-styled newspaper in her English I course. The struggle is real, given that she has two exams the following day and she’s been unable to stay on top of her work due to an intense varsity soccer schedule. It’s 2 a.m. on the morning the newspaper is due, and instead of carefully crafting a fake obituary for Tom Robinson, she peruses the Internet, finds an obituary she can quickly copy, paste, and carefully manipulate into her own project, and calls it a night.

Little did I know that Mrs. Davis, my English teacher, would require us to submit this newspaper through Turnitin, a site I would soon learn teachers employed to detect instances of plagiarism. I remember the email Mrs. Davis sent me a few days after I submitted my project. “Olivia, would you please stop in to see me after school today? I want to talk about your newspaper submission.”

I knew exactly what had gone wrong. I entered her classroom and as she pulled up the Turnitin report, I felt my 15-year-old world crash in upon itself. The shame was worse than the 50 I received on the project. It was worse than the Saturday detention and the phone call home. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t look at pictures of my then Hollywood-crush Gregory Peck—the actor who plays Atticus Finch—simply because of the recurring feelings of disappointment that would ensue.

Fast forward to my first day of Freshman Orientation at Stevens Institute of Technology: I was sitting in the balcony of DeBaun Auditorium with feelings of trepidation and excitement, not entirely sure of what the so-called “Honor System Presentation” was all about. Shane Arlington and Corrine Casey, the Chair and Recording Secretary at the time, stepped onto the stage and immediately drew me in. I was catapulted back into my freshman English class, wishing that my younger self could see where I was in that moment. Shane and Corrine talked about accountability and completing work with integrity, things that I had not considered when I made the rash decision to use words that were not my own four years prior. I knew that this was an organization that would help redefine me as a student and from that point on, I was determined to earn a position on the Board.

It’s interesting to think about where it all began and who I’ve grown to become. When I was “caught” back in high school, I was extremely disappointed in myself, but I also felt anger towards Mrs. Davis. Why did this have to be such a big deal, I thought to myself. I held the false idea that I was immune to these types of circumstances, and yet there I was, having a tête-à-tête with plagiarism.

Now as a senior and the current Chairwoman of the Stevens Honor Board, I have a much different perspective. Next time I’m home and see Mrs. Davis in town, I’m going to thank her for following school policy and not letting me take the easy way out. The pressure to succeed begins at a young age, and follows us wherever we go. It is what we choose to do after a failure that counts, and as I finish out my term as Chairwoman, there is no better way to learn such a lesson than as a member of the Honor Board.