How the Wooster Class of 2020 pulled the wool over everyone’s eyes (by accident)

Claire Montgomery
Senior News Writer

I am here today to tell you why almost every senior snickers when a professor discusses plagiarism, saying something along the lines of, “You all signed the Wooster Ethic, so you should be committed to not plagiarizing.”

Picture this: sometime during first-year orientation, at one of the many events in McGaw Chapel, there is a ceremony where each new student receives a shiny new pen and uses it to sign the Wooster Ethic, a statement that affirms your commitment to uphold “academic and personal integrity,” among other things. Hurrah! You have signed! You are now officially part of the Wooster community.

Now, picture this: August 2016. Otherwise known as orientation week for the current senior class, the Class of 2020. We were given speeches about the Wooster Ethic, telling us why it was important and to truly think about our commitment before we signed. It was really important that we actually consider what we were dedicating our academic pursuits to. In fact, we were told that we were going to be given extra time to think about what it would mean if we attached our name to the document. There would be so much time given to us that we would not be having a signing ceremony, and instead, at some point in the future, the Wooster Ethic would be placed in several prominent locations on campus and we could sign at our own leisure. The sentiment was great. The reality was not.

I never found the Wooster Ethic, and soon forgot that it was a commitment that I was supposed to have affirmed. I therefore never signed the Wooster Ethic. Several of my friends and acquaintances also never found the Wooster Ethic and as a result did not sign either. I have not spoken to a single person who signed the Wooster Ethic from my class who are not transfer students or who took a year off between their first and subsequent years of college. I’ve heard from the grapevine that some people did find it and signed, but I know the vast majority did not. The result is clear: most of the Class of 2020 never got a cool pen.

I think at some point the administration recognized that the lack of ceremony did not yield a result in the way they had previously hoped, because to my knowledge, all subsequent years have had a signing ceremony. It was very quietly acknowledged that the Class of 2020 did not sign the Wooster Ethic because the model that we followed was not repeated; however, the oversight was not corrected. Like the other classes, I had to sit through hours of orientation on the cold, wooden pews of McGaw, but I got nary a pen as a reward.

To the seniors: congratulations. We made it through I.S. while never making a “commitment to the Wooster Ethic.” We took an average of eight semesters of classes plus wrote an entire I.S.! However, I think we have an opportunity here. The Class of 2020 should be given a chance to retroactively sign the Wooster Ethic. At this point, does it really matter that I haven’t signed? No. However, my pencil cup has a suspicious lack of a ceremonial pen.

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