A Principian’s Reflections on the Matthew Code

Way back when I was still a naive and optimistic freshman at Principia College I signed up to participate in an off-campus activity with some fellow students. It would take us away from the campus for several weeks, during which time it was of the UTMOST IMPORTANCE that we uphold the values of Principia and if we saw anyone partaking in un-Principia-like activities (aka breaking the prin code) we were to report them AT ONCE to the staff member who was tending to us.

My fellow freshman and I felt a little uneasy about ratting out our fellow students, but it was the sophomores (those wise older sophomores) who got really upset. What about the Matthew Code!? they demanded. What about it?! we asked. They didn’t tell you?! they sounded incredulous.

The Matthew Code is from Matthew 18:15-17, and most CS groups omit “but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican” which I think is rather silly. 

Matthew 18:15-17

15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.

16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.

17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.   

(emphasis added)

The sophomores who just completed Moral Reasoning had been bombarded with the idea that if they found something amiss they should talk with the person, if that didn’t work, to go back with a friend, and if that failed, then to get an RC involved. Apparently the Matthew Code had no place in off-campus activities, and anything “suspicious looking” should be “reported immediately” otherwise we might be complicit in the crime.

During my time at Principia (including my time in “Moral Reasoning“) the Matthew Code was never brought up in any sort of official capacity. To the best of my knowledge it was never talked about at any of the on-campus talks, or mentioned to any of the incoming classes. As time passed, the few upperclassmen who were aware of the policy graduated or left and the “tell the RC if ANYTHING SUSPICIOUS is happening” (or someone might be gossiping about you, or someone might’ve put your sweater in the dryer) policy took over.

Finding anything about the Matthew Code at Principia College is tricky at best. The Technical Use Policy cites it, in the section of discipline, but fails to cite exactly what the code is.

Principia will investigate any complaint or apparent violation of this policy, according to disciplinary procedures of the Principia.  Based on the Matthew Code, if any member of the community finds evidence of a violation of Principia’s copyright policy, the finder should approach the suspected violator, and explain the copyright law as the finder understands it.

Mention of the Matthew Code shows up again in the MOA Preamble, a downloadable PDF, and also on the Student Ombudsman (when did that happen?) page. In both cases the code is referred to simply as “the Matthew Code” (or Matthew 18:15-17) with nothing more to flesh out the concept, or give interpretation for the passage.

Other CS-facilities, such as Asher House clearly spell out their expectations:

The Matthew Code: As observed by Asher Student Foundation Houses

All problems with another individual, whether resident,officer or Board member, should be handled according
to the guidelines set down in the Book of Matthew in the Bible.
Matt 18:15-17 (to 🙂

[Bible passage here]

These guidelines require that any complaint first be discussed with the individual involved, privately and humbly, with the aim of reconciliation. In the rare instance when that is not achieved, the Matthew Code requires that a second meeting be held with only one or two additional people present, to serve as witness. Again, the goal is healing and reconciliation.

Only when no progress has been made should a complaint or problem be brought to the whole group for additional help. Whether this would involve the residents as a whole or the Board depends on the nature of the problem, and the persons involved.

At Asher House, in theory at least, the idea is you talk to the person first, not go running to the House-person for immediate resolution.

So you think your roommate is gossiping about you? Talk to them! Worried that a friend of yours might be depressed? TALK TO THEM. Suspect a friend of sneaking hard liquor during Quiet Time? Ask them to share! Learn to work out problems and talk to people, or take the truly brilliant advice from the “Ask Your Teacher” feature at the First Church of Christ, Scientist, Newport Beach:

Generally speaking, when you see someone doing something wrong (against the rules of CS) then you should unsee it. See the “better self” as Mrs. Eddy says and love the person you see. I love what Mrs. Eddy says about marriage and I think it could also apply to friends, that the other person “pre-eminently needs better company”. (S&H 66) So await the logic of events and let your good thinking take its effect. Your example more then your judgements will help the person. Judge not that ye be not judged and not being your brothers keeper probably are wise in most cases. There are exceptions of course, but they are rare.

Somehow I don’t think that advice would go over well at Principia.

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “A Principian’s Reflections on the Matthew Code

  1. petit4chocolatier says:

    Interesting post! Every place has their own code of ethics. Amazing isn’t it 🙂
    You have such informative posts! Thank you 🙂

Comments are closed.