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Is there an 'I' in 'we'?

Chronicle file photo
Chronicle file photo

One of the best things Duke has to offer is the sense of community. Whether it is your freshman house GroupMe or the people cheering around in Cameron, we all seem to unite together under our pride of being Blue Devils. From this sense of community comes responsibility: not just over ourselves but for others. We, as a Duke community, try to look out for each other in times of need. From this sense of both union and responsibility, the Duke Community Standard was forged. 

The Duke Community Standard is something we encounter almost every day. We sign it in our online and written assignments and see it occasionally in our classrooms; it surrounds us and affects us on a daily basis. As Duke students, we are expected to uphold and adhere to this code of honor in our academic and personal endeavors. Though it is shockingly a rather recent establishment in Duke, the Duke Community Standard has become a very prevalent aspect of our daily lives. 

The rhetoric of the Duke Community Standard was crafted in a specific way to highlight the tight union between community and responsibility. Most interestingly, however, the community standard specifically uses the word “I” rather than “we” to single out  the individual reading and/or signing the pledge. If this a pledge that all of the community should follow, why is the individual such a salient point of emphasis? 

In our recent ethical discussions within council, we debated whether it would be more helpful if the Community Standard be rewritten to say “we” instead of “I.” Some argued that the standard should change the standard’s wording in order to forge a stronger sense of community amongst those engaging with it (which hopefully is everyone, day in and day out). Altering the Community Standard in such a way could change the connotation and personal meaning many individuals have made with it. The emphasis of the “I” may connote a feeling of personal burden, as if a single individual, and that individual alone, is entirely responsible for upholding honor around Duke. However, this can’t possibly be done by one person. It takes an army of dedicated individuals, quite literally the entirety of the Duke student body, to hold people responsible and have each other’s back. The choice of using “I” instead of “We” may then be crippling that sense of community that is so special Duke. 

Yet, maybe that choice to use “I” instead of “we” was in fact both deliberate and more effective. The Duke Community Standard already emphasizes community enough; take its very name for instance. Having an honor code specifically named after the community instead of something more general (like simply “Honor Code”) gives it the clear sense that the community should partake in such a personal and academic standard. The “I” could be singling us out in a way that makes us more aware of our personal responsibilities and expectations. The “I” could be a factor in increasing accountability in our actions and the actions of others. Maybe we need to be reminded that the Duke community is made up unique individuals that work in unison to make Duke an amazing place. 

Whether you prefer the use of “I” or “we”, we can all come together and recognize the importance of the Duke Community Standard for the Duke student body. We all share the same pride in being Duke Blue Devils, and we should seek to channel that pride into upholding the community standard that makes Duke so honorable. In unity there is strength, and Duke’s strength is bred from the undeniable unity we share by identifying as proud Duke students.

This week’s column was written by Trinity sophomore Cliff Haley.

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