‘Do Something’ in Practice

We’re all familiar with the ‘Do Something’ mantra at Olin. Ask the person down the hall, the studier in the lounge, or the person sitting next to you to name the values of the Honor Code, and you can be sure that they will at least name Do Something. We see it in the title of emails and the closing sentiments in recruitment propaganda. We hear it in praise of starting awesome activities, sarcastically called out when no one volunteers to take on improvements, and as advice to the first year frustrated with a class or club at Olin. The Honor Board is just as guilty of throwing around Do Something as other organizations and individuals.

These are the actual words to the Do Something value in the Honor Code: “I will strive to better myself and my community and take responsibility for my own behavior. When I become aware of a violation of the Honor Code or an issue within the community, I will take action towards resolution of the situation. I expect others to do the same.”

If we were to summarize, this is basically a call to arms – it’s certainly about addressing personal behavior and actions that have broader impacts, but it is also a call to engage in actively promoting the Honor Code. Furthermore, it is open to interpretation – what does it mean to ‘strive to better my community’ or to ‘expect others to do the same’? If we aren’t actively striving to do these things, perhaps we are all in violation of the Honor Code.

Historically, there have been very few Honor Board cases that have been seen purely as a violation of Do Something. Some of this has to do with the ambiguity and broadness of the clause, and some has to do with the pain of determining whether or not someone was ‘striving’ enough. However, Do Something is called out almost daily. As a congratulations of good deeds, as a broad solution to any problem, as a guilt tactic to recruit the few volunteers we need to run all of the various organizations and events on campus…

Why? As a community, do we really need to be reminded to Do Something (anything) so often? Is there perhaps a reason why we aren’t doing anything?

We’re stretched thin right now. There are, oft claimed fondly, “more clubs than students.” We’re a community that prides itself on the independence and ability of the students to be involved in every aspect of life here: academic, service, social. We take it upon ourselves to load our plates with activities because we think we need to, because they’re ‘good for us’, because they’re ‘good for others’, or because no one else would do them.

We need to stop. As is so treasured at Olin, maybe its time for us to reflect as a community on what it is we ACTUALLY value. The Honor Code is supposed to be a tool to reflect the position of the Olin student body at this moment. The way in which we use Do Something doesn’t necessarily gel with the verbiage right now. Should it?

We all ‘pledge’ to Do Something when we sign the honor code, as written. We’re not signing to have Do Something held over our heads every time an email is sent out. We’re not signing to have to participate in every aspect of Olin culture. However, we are signing to ‘do the right thing’ as the community deems fit. Whatever that might be – participating in student government, meeting with professors to improve a class, helping out peers who have fallen on hard times.

Next time we are asked to Do Something, perhaps we should start asking “Why do we have to?” Is there a good reason that this is being asked? Is this going to better us as a whole? Are we as individuals currently ‘Doing Something’ at the moment?
And next time we tell or ask someone to Do Something, perhaps we should start asking “Why can’t I and why should they?”