A Culture of Empathy Is Key as Sam Frank ’24 Leads Honor Council

a young man in a suit and tie

For more than a century, the Rhodes Honor System has encouraged students to fully express their individuality, while living in harmony with the broader community. The Honor System serves as the foundation for Rhodes’ campus-wide community of trust and mutual respect. The following is a conversation with history major Sam Frank ’24, who serves as the 2023-2024 president of the Honor Council, which interprets and implements the Honor Code that each student signs at the beginning of their first year at Rhodes. 

What brought you to Rhodes?

I went to a large high school, so I knew that I wanted something a little more intimate for undergrad. I was looking for a liberal arts college with small class sizes and a tight-knit community. At the same time, I knew I wanted to live in an interesting city. Rhodes checked all those boxes.

Why did you decide to join the Honor Council?  

Coming to Rhodes during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, I got to know the campus at a really strange moment. I struggled with mental health at that time and there was a feeling on campus that many others were too. When I had the opportunity to join the Honor Council, I did so with the goal of bringing a compassionate perspective to student conduct. 

What was most exciting to you about becoming the president of the Honor Council?  

The chance to make some culture changes. Even though the president doesn’t vote in hearings, this position gives me a platform to share my views on our Honor Code. Whether that’s speaking to first-year students at the pledge signing or working with class representatives, I’ve made it my goal to place a greater emphasis on empathy during my time in office.

What do you hope to achieve through your leadership of the Honor Council?

I want the Honor Council to be viewed as an organization that can empathize with the student body. Last year I interned at Just City, a criminal justice reform group here in Memphis. Working there taught me that fear and punishment rarely solve problems and often make them worse. Any organization tasked with seeking justice needs to prioritize compassion and education if the goal is to improve the community it serves. That’s what I want for the council.

What do your day-to-day responsibilities center around?

Most of my work is thinking about the students who go before the council. That applies for both individual cases and overarching policy. As president, I communicate council policies and outcomes to students who come before us. From a policy perspective, it’s my job to think about ways that the council can improve our operating procedures and be responsive to student needs. 

How do you think your work with the Honor Council is shaping your personal and professional development?

For one, it’s making me to reflect on what I do well and what I need to improve on. The situations I deal with as president can be intense and have high stakes. Being in these situations on a regular basis is helping me grow as a decisive decision maker and as a leader. Being president forces me to be organized, compassionate, and have a strong attention to detail. I think that developing these skills will make me a better legal advocate as I prepare for a career in law.

What is one thing you’ll miss about being at Rhodes?

It’s hard to choose just one thing, but I would have to say my professors. I can think of so many professors I have had over the last four years who have changed my life through their teaching, their mentorship or both. Our school’s emphasis on quality teaching is really unique and I’ll miss having such knowledgeable and accessible role models.

Compiled by Tram Truong ’24