The honor court:  a profile

by Cadet Robbie Kirk, '05
Public Affairs intern

When sitting in an honor trial, the tension between the parties present is obvious. One group of representatives is waiting to present evidence that a cadet has committed an honor violation, one is anxious to help prove the cadet’s innocence and one is prepared to hear evidence that will help them decide whether the cadet is guilty or innocent. All know that one cadet's future at The Citadel is at stake.

"Instilling this principle of honor in our cadets must be of utmost importance," said Maj. Gen. John S. Grinalds, president of The Citadel.

In its mission statement, The Citadel promises to teach cadets to adhere to a code that teaches uncompromising personal integrity as the primary guide in all situations. The Citadel strives to produce graduates who can be counted on to do what is right, both in the military and civilian worlds.

The cadet honor code says “A cadet does not lie, cheat or steal, nor tolerate those who do." The code is integral to all aspects of cadet life. Deeds as serious as stealing books to seemingly harmless actions like turning a blind eye to a friend's cheating on a test are considered equally dishonorable. The entire 1,900-member Corps is responsible for enforcing the code, but a committee of seniors elected by their peers enforces the system.

“Instilling this principle of honor in our cadets must be of utmost importance,” said Maj. Gen. John S. Grinalds, president of The Citadel.

Honor trials are conducted to determine an accused cadet's guilt or innocence. Ten members of the honor committee sit on the trial court. Three members serve as prosecutors. Any cadet may serve on the defense, although it is usually made up of the honor representatives from the accused cadet's company. These trials are open to all cadets unless the accused requests a closed trial.

One part of the trial is rarely seen by anyone. Only the accused and the honor representatives involved in the trial are present for the reading of the verdict. After deliberating, the honor court must come back into the courtroom, and the court chairman reads the verdict. This year's chairman, Shaun Haynam '04, believes the hardest part of his job is looking the defendants in the eyes and telling them the court has found them guilty.

"No matter how egregious the offense, it's always gut wrenching," said Haynam. "The only consolation you have is that you're doing something that's right."

Grinalds believes the college is successful in producing honorable graduates, and that nearly all Citadel cadets are committed to the honor code; that is, they live by what is right, not by what they can get away with.

"Cadets understand that there is more to honor than to not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate," the president said, "but that it must permeate everything they do."