By Aiko ’23
Amidst the picturesque campus and crowds of people on the commons, one of the first things I noticed when stepping onto the Harvard-Westlake campus were backpacks. Scattered along the lawn in front of the auditorium and the Horns Commons were a hundred or so backpacks, just laying around while I saw kids go in and out of the cafeteria and hanging out during a break. When I asked my tour guide about this, she nonchalantly said, “Oh yeah, that’s because of the honor code, no one really touches anyone else’s stuff.”
While it may feel very natural to some to leave their laptops and backpacks around when moving around or getting food, I remember having to grow into the habit. Initially, I thought it was a matter of comfort and expanding my social circle, but I soon came to realize that it really is a matter of trust-not only in those directly around me, but in the greater community.
In reality, the backpacks are a very small portrait of one of the tenets of Harvard-Westlake: the Honor Code. I know those words (especially capitalized) may evoke different things in different people; it may be intriguing, intimidating, inspiring even, or anything in between. To have two strong words then described as a pledge one must sign in 7th grade (or in any grade they enter) may be even more daunting, but I assure you that it is one of the things that binds our community together.
At a place where so many strive for academic, artistic, and athletic excellence, the honor code serves as a reminder that those successes should not come at the expense of our integrity. It guides us in remaining honest and moral in our day to day actions as students so we can do so when we leave this community, facing whatever pressures the world may have in store for us. However, more importantly (I dare say), the honor code serves to unite our community, across both campuses, faculty and students, by a set of morals that establish a culture of trust and respect in one another.
Every year at convocation, with the first day jitters and excitement burning off in the scorching sun, the head prefects read the honor code. Before academic expectations are set in the classroom, we individually promise to live up to a common set of ideals, binding us into a community as we trust others to do the same. While many may not feel it is as monumental a moment as I declare it to be, convocation is actually one of the only times our entire community is together, as the middle schoolers are bussed up to the upper school field. In one of those scarce moments, we lay the foundation of how we will act as a whole and with each other, not just as academic powerhouses, but as people. While the honor code is the most prominent when we sign it at the top of every test or paper, it manifests itself in quiet ways like backpacks on the commons.
If you ever have the chance to tour or join our community, I hope you look into the magic of the school-not just the academic rigor and extracurricular opportunities the school has to offer, but the trust and understanding we have of one another as wolverines.