Grappling With What Olin Is and What Olin Can Be

I’ve been thinking about the honor code. For me, being a tour guide is an invitation to present the positives of who we collectively are, and also a time to contemplate the things I cannot say about us that I wish I could.

I know I’m not the only one who feels that the Olin I envisioned during my time as a candidate doesn’t match with the Olin I know today. That Olin had a version of me that wasn’t afraid to try and fail to rally other students and learn about what it takes to build a movement. That version of Olin featured a version of me that didn’t run away from eigenvalues in QEA 1, a version of me that asked for help on my PIE project before the deadline loomed. When I read the honor code, I saw a principle that I realized encapsulates what I wish to see at Olin and in myself: Passion for the Welfare of the College. To be ‘a steward for the welfare of Olin College through a spirit of cooperation’. To be passionate about letting things be difficult. To throw myself up in the air and do everything I can to land, and then do it again with the goal of landing gracefully. Let’s be the Oliners that reach beyond our courses for an education.

In the twenty years since the 2001-2 partner year, Olin’s culture has hosted happenings that were and are vibrant and bizarre. Today, I have felt in myself and others a fear of losing the ‘culture we have worked so hard to build’. It is well intentioned, but this fear is destructive. The time we spend thinking about culture lost is time we haven’t spent strengthening what we want to cherish and building anew what nobody has ever done for Olin. Not so long ago, other students like us saw this trend. They formalized that reminder in the honor code as Openness to Change. Let’s be the ones that drive what comes next. 

Olin has a tradition of being intensely self-critical. I believe this is a strength. At the same time, it seems we habitually give critical feedback with no intention of addressing it. We could be in danger of becoming unassertive and passive. This is why the honor code implores us: Do Something. Strive to better yourself and your community. Take action towards resolution. Expect others to do the same. As a community of simultaneously intelligent and conscientious people, we need a caveat to self-criticism to keep from tearing ourselves apart. 

I’ve started to forget that my actions have overwhelming power over what defines Olin: a few of us together create a large portion of current students. When I frame my decisions as something I could feel proud to tell about on a tour, I feel motivated to rise to a higher standard. When I realize that just as many people as before are looking in on me as when I was one of the people looking in, I feel just crazy enough to believe I have this in me.

For me, this means doing some of my classmates are doing already. I’m going to host a session at SLAC. I’m going to build new things in the shop and invite others to ride them. I’m going to master timeboxing for my own benefit, and I’m going to continue to commit to better sleep. Do me a favor. Spend six minutes looking at the honor code. Ask yourself if you think the honor code is still useful as a compass to guide you, and us, to be successful. If not, try to think about how it could change to once again become that guide during one of those rare, lucid moments during the day. It may be the catalyst to a much more successful future for all of us.