A Reward for Honesty (1836)
    by Alison Peltz, Undergraduate Research Assistant (Computer Science, 2nd year)

At the Faculty Meeting on November 7, 1836, the Proctor reported overhearing conversation on the night of the 4th from Mr. Jacob C. Davis's room that hinted the students inside were playing cards and gambling. Some of the phrases heard were, “Hearts are trumps,” “Play on Shannon,” and, “I hold low.” The door was locked, and as the Proctor tried to enter, he heard cards being shuffled away. When finally entering, the students denied playing cards, and no cards, drafts, or Chess pieces were to be seen. The three students in the room were Samuel C. Stewart, Robert H. Shannon, and Jacob C. Davis.

When taken before the Faculty, Stewart preferred saying nothing on the subject. Davis also chose to say nothing, but when asked if anything was bet, responded, “they could not be betting if not playing.” Shannon revealed to the Faculty that Davis was the one who had quickly hid the evidence that night before letting the Proctor into his room.

The resolved punishment was that the three students would be suspended for the remainder of the Session. 

Later that day, Mr. Mordecai Cooke requested to speak to the Faculty on behalf of Stewart, on the subject of his suspension. Cooke argued Stewart’s case was different from Davis’s and Shannon’s, explaining that Stewart did not say anything before the Faculty, because he did “not [wish] to persist in the false-hood” of the two others. Professor Rogers then spoke to Stewart, and was convinced that this explanation was valid: Stewart truly did not wish to speak a lie. It was then discovered that Davis had fabricated the lie and urged Stewart and Shannon to support it. The resolution was that Stewart’s suspension would be shortened to four months: although he had committed a crime (punishable by suspension), he chose not to lie to the faculty (even if he did not tell the truth), and was rewarded for this choice.

A minor incident such as this makes clear that the Faculty valued student honesty (or, more specifically, the refusal to tell a lie), and modified disciplinary actions to reflect this value.

Related Entries: The Faculty Forbids Cheating

University of Virginia. Faculty Minutes. Vols. 4 and 5, Part 3 (7 November 1836): n.p.

Cite This Entry
Peltz, Alison. "A Reward for Honesty (1836)." JUEL, June 18, 2015. http://juel.iath.virginia.edu/node/19.

First published: June 18, 2015 | Last modified: