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Convocation marks start of the academic year

Philosophy Professor Simon Feldman addresses a standing-room-only crowed at Convocation.
Philosophy Professor Simon Feldman addresses a standing-room-only crowed at Convocation.

Take responsibility. Stand up for your beliefs. Examine your commitment to the Honor Code.

Philosophy Professor Simon Feldman, the keynote speaker at the College's 96th Convocation, challenged students to be true to their convictions, even if it means being unpopular.

Convocation officially opened the 2010-11 year on Sept. 2.

View photos from Opening Day.

Feldman explored several interpretations of what, exactly, is involved in taking responsibility for one's beliefs and why it is a matter of honor.

"Pledging to take responsibility means you pledge not to be weak-willed," Feldman told a standing-room only crowd in Palmer Auditorium. "It also means standing up for your beliefs, even if they are unpopular."

Feldman, recipient of the 2010 John S. King Memorial Teaching Award, presented "Honor Code Ethics 101" as part of the traditional Convocation ceremony. The ceremony celebrates the start of the academic year, welcomes new students and faculty, and recognizes the senior class. It also highlights some of the College's most important values: academic excellence, integrity and the importance of community.

Created by students in 1922, the Honor Code is a system based on trust and mutual respect. Students uphold academic excellence and high community standards by practicing responsible citizenship that protects the core principles of the College. New students learn about the Honor Code and sign a Matriculation Pledge to uphold during their orientation. During Convocation, all members of the community are invited to renew their commitment to the Honor Code by repeating the pledge together.

"The idea here is that in pledging to take responsibility for your beliefs, you’ve pledged not to be weak willed and this means, to put it harshly, that you’ve given up the right to make excuses for doing what you know is wrong," Feldman said. "Lack of sleep, the pressure to get good grades, the tragic demise of your sister’s dog’s hamster. No point in mentioning these things as excuses if you’ve made a bad choice. In taking a pledge to be true to yourselves you’ve just agreed that these things will not and should not get you off the hook."

Other highlights of Convocation included welcoming remarks from President Leo I. Higdon Jr.; speeches from Student Government Association President Nathan Cornell '11 and class presidents Annie Motch '11, D'laryus Rivera '12, and Daniel Smoot '13; and the introduction of new faculty members by Dean of the Faculty Roger Brooks.

W. Estella Johnson '75, director of economic development in Cambridge, Mass., and a Connecticut College trustee, shared fond memories of her own undergraduate days and, on behalf of the Alumni Association, presented the Class of 2014 its official banner.

Johnson described what she appreciates most about her Connecticut College education. "It taught me what, when and how to question," she said.

The 96th Convocation was followed by an all-campus picnic on Tempel Green.

September 10, 2010