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Intellectual and Social Growth: A Look at the Bryn Mawr Honor Code Outline


For my portion of the project, I examined how the honor code contributes to the creation and development of contact zones and safe houses at Bryn Mawr. As you may remember from reading her essay “Arts of the Contact Zone,” Mary Louise Pratt defines contact zones as “social spaces where cultures meet, clash, and grapple with each other, often in contexts of highly asymmetrical relations of power, such as colonialism, slavery, or their aftermaths as they are lived out in many parts of the world today” (34). She considers safe houses to be “social and intellectual spaces where groups can constitute themselves as horizontal, homogeneous, sovereign communities with high degrees of trust, shared understandings, temporary protection from legacies of oppression” (40). Though both of these circumstances can be found on college campuses, I find that these definitions do not cover all the situations that I consider worth examining under the category of contact zone or safe house. Thus, I wrote two new definitions, not to replace Pratt’s, but to supplement them.

Contact Zones:

situations in which two or more people or groups of people, who may differ significantly in terms of background, culture, identity, beliefs, and/or values, engage in meaningful dialogue with relation to their differences; this usually involves some controversy or disagreement, but ideally remains respectful

Pratt’s definition of contact zones is, in my opinion, too violent and negative to cover the majority of contact zones on college campuses; even she acknowledges later in her essay that contact zones can create a positive, if uncomfortable, learning experience (39). I also find her emphasis on cultures too limiting. If you put any two people together, even if they are from the same culture, there will be some kind of difference between them, and if they engage in a conversation that brings their differences to light and helps them better understand themselves and each other, I believe that is a kind of contact zone.

Safe Houses:

situations in which people engage in conversation, but hold back from controversy; they try to find common ground, but may shy away from disagreement in order to do so

To balance the positive contact zone, I defined a slightly negative safe house. In many circumstances, this kind of safe house might exist where people try to create a safe house but lack the criteria described by Pratt (“horizontal, homogeneous, sovereign communities.”) In a classroom, for example, these criteria are missing because classes are rarely homogeneous in any sense, and they are hierarchical, with the instructor in a position of authority. Thus, people may try to make themselves and others feel safe by avoiding the contact zone, not acknowledging their differences, or refusing to bring up a point that disagrees with one already made.

Some relevant quotes from the honor code:

“We, the members of the Undergraduate College of Bryn Mawr, have come together in this community in order to create an environment in which each member is able to realize their full potential — a potential which is realized through intellectual and social growth.”

“At the heart of growth is the process of learning. Learning is dependent upon an exchange of ideas, a dialogue that can only occur when there is mutual trust, respect, and concern. These qualities are natural in a community where the members are aware of their interrelation and interdependence. Through the community we are able to create an atmosphere for growth and learning as the maintenance of the community has the identical requirement for success as does the process of learning-dialogue.”

Questions to think about:

Is Bryn Mawr a contact zone or a safe house? Is this good or bad?

Which does the honor code encourage, contact zones or safe houses?

In your time at Bryn Mawr, have you confronted anyone? How did it go? Were there any times that you wanted to confront someone, but didn’t? Why not?

When should we preserve confidentiality? When can confidentiality be harmful?

Works Cited:

 Pratt, Mary Louise. Arts of the Contact Zone. N.p.: Modern Language Association, n.d. PDF.

"Honor Code." Self-Government Association. Bryn Mawr College SGA, n.d. Web. 07 Dec. 2015.


What is a TimeBank?

“A time bank is a reciprocity-based work trading system in which hours are the currency. With time banking, a person with one skill set can bank and trade hours of work for equal hours of work in another skill set instead of paying or being paid for services.” (time bank)

“A TimeBank is formed whenever individuals or organizations agree to earn and spend TimeBank Hours to meet the needs of friends, neighbors, and the larger community.

TimeBanks range from Small (15 – 20 members) to large (2,000 or more). They can connect with other Timebanks too.

Each TimeBank is unique reflection of its members, who they are, the dreams they have for their community, and what they choose to offer and receive.” (What is Timebanking?)


How does a TimeBank work?

“Here is how it works: I earn a time credit by doing something for you. It doesn’t matter what that “something” is. You turnaround and earn a time credit doing something for someone else in your TimeBank Community. For example, an hour of gardening equals an hour of child-care equals an hour of dentistry equals an hour of home repair equals an hour of teaching someone to play chess. The possibilities are endless.” (What is Timebanking?)

Honor Code Excerpt

“Our intellectual and social development requires freedom born from trust. For growth requires more than blind adherence to a code of conduct, it requires reflection  — reflection upon our actions and how our actions affect those with whom we share  the community. Such reflection is only possible when one’s judgment is trusted.
Growth also requires that we take responsibility for our judgments, actions, and also for our student community. At the heart of growth is the process of learning. Learning is dependent upon an exchange of ideas, a dialogue that can only occur when there is mutual trust, respect, and concern. These qualities are natural in a community where the members are aware of their interrelation and interdependence. Through the community we are able to create an atmosphere for growth and learning as the maintenance of the community has the identical requirement for success as does the process of learning-dialogue.” (Honor Code)

Interview with Jessica Hollinger Vinson Key Points

Jessica is currently the Associate Director of Experimental Education for LILAC. In 2011 as the Coordinator of Staff Education, she designed and implemented a time bank pilot at Bryn Mawr College as part of the Teaching and Learning Institute (TLI). The TLI was a program created to foster student and faculty learning relationships and to be a media through which extracurricular interactions could occur which benefited both students and faculty members.
The time bank pilot was created to “break down barriers between staff and students” (Hollinger Vinson). It ran for less than a year during the 2011-2012 academic year. Only around 20 people participated.
While people liked the concept of having a time bank at Bryn Mawr, the pilot did not succeed for a variety of reasons. Not enough people participated. People were too busy with academics. Also, since the time bank was run by the college (and not he students) there were legal issues related to staff and student interactions that limited what could be done as part of the time bank.

Interview with Edgar Cahn Key Points

Edgar Cahn is the founder of TimeBanking as well as the founder and current CEO and Chairman of the Board of TimeBanks USA. He came up with the idea for TimeBanking in 1980 after suffering a major heart attack. While recovering he felt useless, didn’t like that feeling, realized that he “was someone who could be special for others, who could do something they needed” (Cahn, No More), and realized that he wasn’t the only one who felt that way. He didn’t want to be one of the “throw-away” people and he realized that others didn’t either. So he thought of a way in which people could contribute to society and earn ‘money’ in a new way. He came up with the idea for TimBanking, which has since expanded across the globe and encompasses some major social justice issues.
Cahn is also a Swarthmore College Alum and his sister is a Bryn Mawr College Alumnae. So when I discussed with him the history of time banking at Bryn Mawr and why it failed he was able to give me informed advice into what was ‘needed’ for a TimeBank to succeed at Bryn Mawr. Something he mentioned about why he believes the TimeBank didn’t succeed, which I agree with, is that when it comes to things outside academia Bryn Mawr students have a ranking order for things that they do and at the top of that ranking order tends to be social justice work, so something like TimeBanking by itself will not succeed. But TimeBanking and social justice need not to be separate. TimeBanking is in fact being used in many ways to help with social justice issues. So at Bryn Mawr, if a time bank was centered around one or more social justice projects it would be more likely to succeed and create the energy that is needed for its continued success.
Related to this, Cahn told me about something called Dream Circles. Basically Dream Circles work off of the idea that everyone has a dream for social change they want to fulfill and if people work together on a dream it can be fulfilled. So people use TimeBanks in this by investing time in each other’s dreams. This increases the ways in which to invest energy into a dream and turns community members and coworkers into catalysts for change.
Cahn also gave me an analogy that explains the need for TimeBanks. He explained to me that the current economic system we rely on, which is based almost solely on money, is like monocropping. Monocropping is an agricultural practice where the same crop is grown year after year on the same plot of land, without any crop rotation. This results in the destruction of soil ecology and the increased vulnerability of the crop to parasites such as inspects, other plants, and microorganisms. It also increases the likelihood of an entire crop being wiped out by disease. “An example of this would be the potato famine of Ireland in 1845–1849, and according to Devlin Kuyek [monocropping] is the main cause of the current food crisis with monoculture rice crops failing as the effects of climate change become more acute”(Monocropping). Just like with monocropping, the sole reliance of our economy on money is a recipe for disaster, for example the Great Depression or the 2008 recession. But in agriculture polycropping can help solve the problems monocropping creates. Polycropping is an agricultural practice where multiple crops are rotated through the same plot of land every few years. This increases the variance in soil ecology, decreases the crops’ vulnerability to parasites, and decreases the crops’ chance of being wiped out by disease. So if the economy was run like polycropping, with multiple crops/forms of currency then the economy could be revived. Cahn also said that the 3 types of currency needed for this polycrop economy would be actual money, service credits, and academic credits (classes, degrees, grades). Note: Due to time restrictions, this analogy will not be included in the presentation but since I think it is vital to understanding the need for TimeBanks I chose to include it in my summary.

“No More Throw-Away People: The Co-Production Imperative” by Edgar Cahn, pages xii-xiii, quotes about TimeBanks in social justice situations“A teenager charged with truancy fulfills her sentence of community service imposed by a teenage jury by tutoring first and second graders. And magically, the learning is happening on both end and in new ways for both tutor and tutee.”
“The inmates at Gloucester Remand Prison earn time credits by refurbishing bicycles that are shipped out to developing countries, and the prisoner’s families then use those credits to buy the support they need from people in their local communities.”
“A mother of a mentally retarded child being mainstreamed into school is simultaneously trying to get off Temporary Assisstance for Needy Families (TANF) by working. She uses Time Dollars to make sure her child gets to school on time when she has to leave for work.”
“An African immigrant, new to the community, has gained immediate access to the help, support and the talents of strangers who welcomed him in a way that prompts him to remark, ‘This is like coming home.’”


Connection to Van Jones

In his book, “The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems”, Van Jones says, “’The green economy should not be just about reclaiming thrown-away stuff,’… ‘It should be about reclaiming thrown-away communities’” (Kolbert 4). And in Edgar Cahn’s book “No More Throw-Away People: The Co-Production Imperative”, Cahn talks about time banks as a way of getting rid of throw-away people by giving them renewed purpose through giving them the opportunity to use skills they have that may not fit into the traditional economic mold. Time banks can be used to both solve the problem of throw-away people and climate change, if the time bank work was used for environmental initiatives.

Works Cited
"What is Timebanking?" TimeBanks USA. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Dec. 2015.
"Honor Code." Bryn Mawr Self-Government Association. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Dec. 2015.
Hollinger Vinson, Jessica. Personal interview. 29 Oct. 2015.
"Bryn Mawr College Time Bank: Join our Pilot!" Bryn Mawr College. N.p., 6 Sept. 2011.
Web. 7 Dec. 2015. <>.
"The Teaching and Learning Institute at Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges." Bryn
Mawr College. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Dec. 2015. <>.
"time bank." N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Dec. 2015.
Cahn, Edgar S. Personal interview. 8 Dec. 2015.
Cahn, Edgar S. No More Throw-Away People: The Co-Production Imperative. 2nd ed.
Washington D.C.: Essential Books, 2004. Print.
"Monocropping." Wikipedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Dec. 2015. <