Colleges often have an honor code for their athletes to live up to. This may include a high standard of conduct regarding honesty (including no cheating as well as in interpersonal situations), professional behavior (including avoiding substance abuse), and integrity (some schools do not allow tutors to lend an athlete a quarter for a soda to avoid situations where an athlete might be seen as getting special favors).

The reaction in the sports press, blogs, and forums to a situation where an athlete has broken the honor code publicly can be fast and loud. On one side, opponents of the action berate the university for unrealistic rules and punishment stronger than the behavior demands. On the other side, advocates support the university – perhaps for not letting the possibility of a Final Four appearance by the team to delay or ignore the breach of the code.

Clear Agreements & Accountability

At issue here is not whether you think the university’s honor code is fair or appropriate. What is at issue is clear agreements and accountability.

A university has every right to define what standards of conduct are required by faculty, staff, and students. If a student attends a university, that student knows very well what the “ground rules” are. If a student doesn’t agree with those conduct standards, they can choose not to attend that university. If a student chooses to attend the university, that student must adhere to those standards of conduct or face the consequences.

Grace & Diligence

University officials need to be diligent and apply consequences when they learn of a code infraction – by anyone affilicated with the university. Officials should use tact and grace to announce the violation and consequences. They do not need to go into details of the case necessarily; they may simply refer to an Honor Code violation. They do not have to judge nor attribute blame.

Officials can handle the situation with grace, diligence, and respect, further demonstrating the kind of atmosphere they want to create.

Clear Conduct Standards

My proven culture refinement process places a strong emphasis on creating values and valued behaviors that help leaders and staff understand what a good citizen looks like in their organization. In our experience, without agreement about conduct standards, the work environment breeds traits like:

  • Contempt
  • Distrust
  • Fear

What can you do today to clarify and enforce desired valued behaviors?