Honor Principle

The Essence of Reed Honor

Despite changing norms of behavior between 1911 and the present, certain ideas seem to have remained essential to the meaning of the Honor Principle:

  • The Honor Principle is universal, binding all members of the college community, which includes faculty, staff, and students.

  • The Honor Principle assumes that members of the community will be honest not only in their academic work, but in all their behavior; will respect others’ rights and persons; will take responsibility for the effect of their behavior on the college as a whole; and will engage in conscientious self-reflection about their words and deeds.

  • The Honor Principle itself is not a law or code of conduct and does not take the place of or eliminate the need for legislation; instead, it presupposes voluntary compliance with established rules, regulations, and policies.

  • The Honor Principle encourages maximum reliance on individual judgment and conscience, in addition to rules and regulations.

  • The Honor Principle implies that when individuals sincerely believe it necessary to violate a policy or break a rule, or to embarrass, discomfit, or in some way injure others or the community as a whole, they must acknowledge and explain their behavior, and be prepared to accept the judgment of the community’s judicial processes.

  • The Honor Principle depends on a collective concern for its survival: members of the community have to discuss and analyze the meaning of the Honor Principle and must internalize an obligation to ensure that potentially dishonorable behavior, their own or others’, is scrutinized through acknowledgment and discussion, direct confrontation, or the mechanisms of the judicial process.


In the 1989–90 Student Handbook, Jiro Feingold casts this spirit in less formal language:

"What the Honor Principle means to me: Don’t lie, cheat, or steal. Don’t mock or humiliate someone in a public forum . Think about what you do, before you do it . If it will inconvenience someone, try to find a solution compatible to both of you . Try to make the community work."

Be critical when observing the “community norms” at Reed. Observe, then ask questions! Often a loud minority of students can give the impression that they are within the norm.