Dear Valparaiso University freshmen,
I want to share with you some of my experiences with the honor system. I was a student at VU from 1985-1990. I cheated on 3 exams in two courses during my sophomore year. In doing so, I managed to hold onto an A and a C in the two classes. I didn't get caught at the time.
But I turned myself in - about 17 years later, during the Spring semester of 2003.
Why did I cheat?
It's been so long that I don't remember the exact reasons. I was unprepared, possibly because of girlfriend problems, possibly because I had been down at the fraternities, possibly because I was legitimately studying for other classes. Most of you will face every one of these obstacles while you are at VU, and you will face many, many others. How you handle these things is just one opportunity for personal growth that you will have during your college years.
Why did I turn myself in?
I'm not going to tell you that if you cheat during your college years you will find yourself on the slippery slope to being the next crooked corporate executive. I don't believe that. I was quite honest before I cheated, and I've been quite honest since. I compromised my espoused beliefs on just those few occasions during the hundreds of opportunities I had for doing so. You may, too; and you, too, may go on to be successful in every way imaginable.
Instead of me trying to persuade you of the pitfalls of cheating, I merely want to tell you why I wish I hadn't. I hope that you will find in that some internal motivation to be true to the word you gave today.
My cheating said that my lack of preparation wasn't my fault, that I shouldn't have been expected to be prepared. My cheating said that God could not take care of me, particularly if I wasn't perfect. It said that He couldn't or wouldn't create good in a bad situation - particularly, a bad situation that I had created. It said that I had to be in control even at the expense of my word.
On Good Friday of this year, as I was reading the Bible, I felt strongly that I needed to confess my cheating. I did it out of a sense of honor. I felt strongly the need to extend to VU the honor they had given to me, even if I was doing it many years too late. And I felt strongly a desire to honor the Lord by trusting Him to provide for me, even if VU went to the extreme of taking my degree away. So, I turned myself in. It was a way of proclaiming that I will live without fear and that I will trust God to provide for my needs, regardless of what circumstances look like. It was an acknowledgment that I should have been more brave and more honest all those years ago. It was a proclamation that I will be responsible for my actions even if it means I cannot be in control of the desired results. And silly as it sounds, it was saying that I want the red pill.
That's it. I don't have any rah-rah speech about not cheating. One or two incidents of cheating won't condemn you to a life of serial dishonesty and debauchery. I simply believe we are truly free if we choose to honor God, ourselves and others, regardless of the outcome. And it is my wish that each one of you will choose to experience that freedom now, during your college years, instead of struggling to find it in your 30's or 40's or later.