During the Coronavirus pandemic, classmates from Cadet Company E4 kept in touch with monthly Zoom meetings. During one meeting there was a discussion of the Honor Code: “A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do.” The discussion went on for some time. It reminded me of my own experience with the Code. I did not bring up my “incident” because the meeting was already running long, and we didn’t have a paid Zoom account.
The discussion jogged my memory, and I emailed the two guys I roomed with at the time to confirm my memory. Here is part of the message:
“One evening early in Plebe (Freshman) year, we were all in the room studying when one of my two Plebe roommates walked by and noticed I was studying the wrong chapter (obviously I was already goat* material). I switched to the correct chapter. This led to a discussion among the three of us something like: “Wait a minute, is this unauthorized assistance, i.e., cheating?” Fearing an early end to my cadet career, I turned myself in to the company Honor Rep (each Cadet company had an Honor Representative). Don’t remember who it was, but he was napping on the top bunk when I reported to him. I explained the situation, and he responded to the effect that so long as no one helped me solve problems or complete the assignment, there was no cheating.
The (thankfully) brief concern about being thrown out for an Honor violation has stuck with me. That was my only brush with the Honor Code, and I managed to maintain my position in the bottom 6% of the class. Or the top 94%, to put a more positive spin on it.
I still have the 1964 -1965 USMA catalogue which I received in the mail as I was considering attending West Point. When I thought about writing this story, I referred to the catalog to confirm that we were actually exposed to the Honor Code long before R-Day (Reception Day, July 1, 1965, the day we entered West Point as the Class of 1969).
In the 192-page catalog, there was a 2-page summary of the Honor Code — on pages 14 & 15 — before Education and Training that was discussed on page 16!
Our Class was exposed to the Honor Code early and often. The Honor Code was addressed in detail in our Bugle Notes (an information book, most of which was to be memorized by Plebes and recited on demand during Plebe year.)
I’m pretty sure we had formal and informal Honor Code presentations or discussions early in Beast Barracks. It was not something we took lightly. Hence, turning myself in when in doubt of a violation.
Finally, I should point out that the Honor Code was not only a cadet responsibility. It’s a lifelong commitment to living honorably.
* Goat: the last person in the class academically. Collectively, Goats are the bottom half of the class.