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Relationship Covenant (Guiding Principles)

Introduction to our Guiding Principles

In a short time, you will join our Wake Forest community and begin your orientation to a new academic life. This exciting time of transition will acquaint you with a myriad of new faces, schedules, programs and policies.

Sometimes, this initial adjustment to college life can be overwhelming, as well as exciting. With so much to digest, one can lose sight of the fundamental principles and expectations for your new life at Wake Forest. As you make choices about living and learning at your new home, we encourage you to reflect upon what Wake Forest provides for you and what Wake Forest expects from you.

We have developed the “Relationship Covenant” as a vehicle for stimulating careful thought and reflection before you arrive about the nature of our community and your responsibility to live in harmony with our heritage and ideals. We offer these principles in order to enhance our working and learning community.

Some institutions regard education as academic training. Wake Forest, in the tradition of liberal education, defines education comprehensively as “human development.” This view makes intellectual preparation (learning) essential but not defining of the educational purpose. Central to this broader definition of education is the question of ethical and moral values-in a word, character. Our motto at Wake Forest is Pro Humanitate, which reflects the universality of the human community and a sense of service to the human family. The aim of a Wake Forest education is a combination of goodness and intelligence.

By sharing these guiding principles for life at Wake Forest, we hope to better communicate our vision of education and community.

A Relationship Covenant

The new world rapidly forming about us belongs of right to the young—its inheritance of dissolving traditions, the new types of freedom into which they will be recomposed, the control of the transition, the leadership of the new order. The very marks and traits of youth impose upon it these responsibilities. Its memory is too short to be preoccupied with the past. Its mind is not set, but adjustable and receptive. Its native boldness has not been disciplined by defeat. Its energy is unjaded, equal to any task. Its enthusiasms have not been cooled by experience. Its adventurous spirit is ready for any enterprise on any path into the opening future. If the path promises to be difficult, so much the better: and the tang of danger gives it fascination.

— William Louis Poteat, “Youth and Culture” (1938)
President, Wake Forest College, 1905-1927

When William Louis Poteat, the seventh president of Wake Forest, wrote these thoughts about the universal challenges of youth, he spoke in the context of an educational tradition at Wake Forest that encouraged the role of the University as a shaper of character. Dr. Poteat also understood and embraced the inherent trust delegated to the University when parents delivered their sons and daughters to college.

In 1910 Dr. Poteat told a story in which the father of one of the entering students presented at the registration office the following legal instrument: “To whom it may concern: This is to certify that I have this day delivered to [the] University one boy, marked (name given), package unbroken and contents apparently sound and in good condition, value inestimable; said party of the second part to act in loco parentis for a period of six years, in consideration of divers sums paid by said party of the first part at stipulated intervals, and to return at expiration of that period one bachelor of laws, duly educated and certified, and otherwise uninjured.”

Dr. Poteat understood the University’s responsibility in accepting these students. But he also understood the sheer futility and shortsightedness of returning the student to the parent with just a degree, “duly educated, and otherwise uninjured.” Dr. Poteat may have even argued with the parental expectation that the student should be returned “uninjured,” since the process of human growth and development surely suggests injuries to preconceived notions and sensibilities. Growth generally involves learning from mistakes, sacrifices, untoward choices and living with the consequences of one’s decisions. One of the great misunderstandings of liberal education today stems from the misperception of purpose. But in a long line of Wake Forest presidents, from Samuel Wait to Nathan Hatch, the message of our purpose is clear and resounding. “The college of liberal arts is the guardian of the culture and experience of humankind. It is the vehicle by which each generation is brought up into sympathetic appreciation of the total achievement of the human race in order to preserve democracy and the legacy of knowledge, which is required for enlightened governance.”

When he was named Wake Forest’s 13th president in 2005, Nathan O. Hatch said: “I love Wake Forest’s motto, Pro Humanitate, particularly its interest in nurturing students morally as well as intellectually. I relish that opportunities abound at Wake Forest for students to serve; and to be challenged with the big questions: What can I know? In what can I believe? To what should I be committed? Wake Forest’s religious heritage, far from being a liability or an embarrassment, offers the opportunity of a holistic education, one that allows students to wrestle with the world’s most pressing issues.”

The goals and benefits of a liberal education, however, are thwarted if students are not able to engage in independent decision-making, explanation and problem solving. Dr. Poteat described the principal process of a Wake Forest education as one that is “not finished, but perfecting.”

Wake Forest is part of a tradition of education which believes that students must come to understand and act in accordance with principles of conduct, discourse and learning which lead them to respect others as well as themselves. In this way their role as future leaders is modeled and reinforced. We aspire to educate your son or daughter in conformity with these principles. We submit to you these practical guidelines as a way of clearly articulating our standards and enlisting your assistance in assuring that our task of “perfecting” will be understood as part of an overarching educational philosophy which aims at achieving not only a degree but a life worth living.

Guiding Principles of the Wake Forest Community


Wake Forest University is firmly committed to principles of honor and ethical conduct. The Honor Code embodies a spirit of trust that pervades all aspects of student life. Each student’s word should be worthy of trust. A violation of this trust is an offense against the community. Membership in the student body signifies commitment to the Honor Code and the judicial system. It is the responsibility of every student to act honorably in all phases of student life, to understand student rights and responsibilities, and to preserve the integrity of the Honor Code. — Guide to Wake Forest University Student Government

Wake Forest provides the opportunity for its faculty, staff and students to live, work and learn together as a community. As such, we embrace an Honor Code by which all members agree to abide.

Wake Forest expects its students to know the Honor Code, pledge to support and uphold it, endeavor to make it an integral part of their lives, and promote its reality in the community.

Community and Civility

At Wake Forest, we are a community, and the concept of community directs our activities. We were born in a village in the forest of Wake County where we lived for about a century and a quarter. We try to preserve the congeniality and concern for each other born of our small-town origins. Wake Forest University is committed to building and preserving an atmosphere of mutual respect among all campus constituencies and to instilling ideals of civility in its students. Wake Forest aspires to graduate responsible, courteous and independent people who are able to address a problem and work maturely and cooperatively with others to find a solution. With this goal in mind, we call on all our students to share certain expectations of conduct, civility and cooperation. We expect parents as well as students to share our efforts to promote a spirit of dignity and cooperation among all members of this community in their day-to-day interactions.

Wake Forest provides a learning environment in which the worth and dignity of all persons is affirmed and in which students are treated with civility and respect. This is demonstrated in the policy of our Board of Trustees that states, “Wake Forest University is committed to administer all educational and employment activities without discrimination because of race, color, religion, national origin, age, sex or disability as required by law. In addition, the University community rejects hatred and bigotry in any form and adheres to the principle that no person affiliated with Wake Forest should be judged or harassed on the basis of perceived or actual sexual orientation.”

Wake Forest expects all members of the community to treat faculty, staff, administrators and students with civility and respect in both casual and professional interactions (phone, person-to-person, e-mail, etc.). University representatives will not respond positively to disrespectful communication such as cursing or other abusive language and behaviors. Threats of legal action against the University will be forwarded to University Counsel without reply.

Wake Forest provides many opportunities for learning. Part of this learning process, which occurs both in and out of the classroom, involves helping students learn how to set priorities, resolve problems and make day-to-day choices on their own. Responsible decision-making is an important part of the maturation process.

Wake Forest expects students to attempt to resolve problems with the help of faculty, administrators and staff before seeking intervention by parents and other outside representatives.

Wake Forest provides all students, even those who do not receive direct scholarship assistance, a built-in tuition subsidy. That is, all students receive at least an indirect subsidy because some of the University’s operating costs are paid through sources other than tuition revenue. Thanks to our endowment and generous gifts, no student pays for all the benefits of a Wake Forest education. A Wake Forest education is a privilege available equally to all who qualify and are accepted.

Wake Forest expects that students and parents will respect the principle of equitable treatment for all and will not seek entitlements based upon payment of tuition or financial aid status.

Health and Well-Being

At Wake Forest, we are concerned about the health and security of students, as well as their physical and emotional well-being. Choosing a college is among the first acts of one’s adult life. That means that students have increased responsibilities for themselves, which are often exercised in the context of our community. We seek to provide an environment in which a student’s capacity to manage his or her affairs can be developed. We view with alarm the rising incidence of drug and alcohol abuse on our nation’s campuses. We will maintain a social environment in which the law of the land and University policies regarding alcohol and other drugs are respected. To be educated, a student must be at his or her full mental and emotional capacity. Students are no longer children; they are responsible for their own conduct.

Wake Forest provides an environment that does not tolerate illegal drugs, consistent with the Drug Free Schools and Communities Act.

Wake Forest expects that students will comply with the Act, which requires that, as a condition of receiving funds or financial assistance under any federal program, an institution of higher education must certify that it has adopted and implemented a program to prevent the unlawful possession, use or distribution of illicit drugs and alcohol by students and employees. Moreover, compliance with this law requires colleges and universities to impose disciplinary sanctions on students for violations. The use or possession of any illegal controlled substance will result in suspension or expulsion.

Wake Forest provides a well-kept and maintained residential environment for students.

Wake Forest expects students to comply with routinely scheduled health and safety inspections of residence halls, as well as administrative searches that are conducted as a regular procedure. University officials, however, may search student rooms when reasonable cause exists to believe that a violation of University policy or law has occurred.

Wake Forest provides the University Counseling Center, Learning Assistance Center, Campus Ministry and Student Health Service for student use.

Wake Forest expects that, in general, students will accept responsibility for seeking help for themselves. Occasionally, students may be required to seek counseling at the University Counseling Center. At other times, students may be required to seek assistance elsewhere at their own expense.

Wake Forest provides resident students with living accommodations in a residential community, through a housing agreement that guarantees students certain rights, as noted in the Guide to Community Living.

Wake Forest expects mutual respect and courtesy to and from all community members in order to encourage residents’ academic priorities as well as to accommodate appropriate social activities. In this environment, no individual can do what he or she wants all of the time. Wake Forest also expects that students will fulfill their obligations as specified in the housing agreement. Students need to understand that they are not guaranteed their choice of room or roommate, although efforts are made to fulfill reasonable requests. Wake Forest further expects that students sharing common areas in the halls and houses will take care of such facilities and will be held personally responsible for any damages assessed to group living spaces.

Wake Forest provides an environment in which student organizations and their leaders are carefully and regularly educated in risk management issues and procedures to safeguard their events, and in which all students have opportunities to engage in health education and orientation programs, classes and other interventions related to alcohol use and abuse.

Wake Forest expects that individual students and student organizations will comply with the risk management policies of the national organizations with which they are affiliated, University policies related to risk management and applicable federal, state and local laws related to alcohol possession, distribution and consumption, and hazing issues. In cases of alcohol abuse and/or hazing, the University takes strong intervention measures that include suspension or expulsion.


Wake Forest is also committed to the development of character, integrity and a set of values for life. Our purpose is to see that you regard the education you are given as a trust to be used for public advancement as well as private welfare. We encourage the resolution by students to make the world a better place by their commitments. Intelligence must be united with goodness if education is to serve its purpose. Pro Humanitate is the motto of Wake Forest, and the University remains committed for the future, as we have been for 170 years, to an ethically informed conception of education and the educated person.

Wake Forest provides, in cooperation with the Winston-Salem community, an environment that supports students and provides opportunities for internships, volunteer service and special events.

Wake Forest expects students to represent the University well in the larger community at all times. Students who choose to live off campus after their second year must seek approval from the University.

Wake Forest provides recognition to a variety of clubs and organizations that meet the needs and interests of students. Recognition is extended by the University, conditional upon the organization’s agreement to abide by these guiding principles and to uphold the mission and purpose of the University.

Wake Forest expects students to consider the actions and programs of those organizations as extensions of their own behavior and identity. Wake Forest further expects students in those organizations to share responsibility and consequences when organizations violate standards of civility, respect and honor. Recognition is a privilege, not a right, and it can be withdrawn.

Wake Forest provides an environment that is conducive to the development of high standards for citizenship and leadership in the world. Its code of personal conduct has been developed to assure accountability for upholding not only the law of the land, but high standards of integrity, respect for the rights and privileges of others, and the spirit of collegiality. Students should understand that the law establishes only a minimum standard for conduct in our society.

Wake Forest expects adherence to higher standards of conduct. A dismissal of a criminal action in court does not dispose of a case in the University judicial system. The University determines a student’s status with the institution, not criminal culpability. Administrative hearings are conducted in cases involving alleged felonies, sexual assault, drugs and alcohol-related offenses. The University hearing officer seeks the truth and applies the University’s standards of honor and integrity, rather than legal standards of guilt in a criminal trial.

Wake Forest provides a judicial and honor system that has been approved by the University community. Wake Forest expects students to respect the University’s judicial processes and support the search for truth and facts.

Wake Forest expects that students will not in any way attempt to circumvent the system. Moreover, participation in hearings by parents and other outside representatives is prohibited.

Wake Forest provides confidentiality with respect to the maintenance of student records, consistent with federal law.

Wake Forest expects that parents will seek information first from their students and will respect the University’s obligation to protect student confidentiality. However, students who commit crimes or violate policies compromise their right to confidentiality.

Learning Through Discovery

Wake Forest is committed to providing students with the tools that will enable them to educate themselves. Socrates said that all learning that matters is from within. It is discovery. We stand firmly within a tradition of liberal education and academic foundationalism. Students take courses in a wide range of subjects and are challenged to consider new and unfamiliar ways of understanding human nature, society and the natural order. We have an outstanding faculty committed to students as partners in learning. Their doors are open. Our curriculum gives students the opportunity to explore new areas of interest. Our libraries contain the wisdom of the ages and the best of what human intelligence has recorded. The computing tools that students are given enhance their experience and prepare them for the world of work in an information-based economy. The process of learning at Wake Forest may not be without pain and sacrifice. Unless students are challenged to increase their abilities, they will never recognize their potential. This process of trial and error can be a hard lesson for parents too—even though we know in our own experience that the lessons of failure are essential. An education cannot be bought; it is an opportunity to be earned with discipline and work.

Wake Forest provides students with an outstanding faculty and academic programs. Classes should be a student’s highest priority.

Wake Forest expects that students will not schedule co-curricular activities at times that conflict with classes and other academic pursuits. Students are expected to attend classes regularly and punctually. A vital aspect of the residential college experience is attendance in the classroom; its value cannot be measured by testing procedures alone.

Wake Forest provides students with the opportunity to receive a liberal arts education, which includes requirements in a variety of areas.

Wake Forest expects that students will exercise flexibility with regard to their course selections. A liberal arts education implies a breadth of course work; sometimes unexpected choices will yield the finest learning experiences.

Wake Forest provides students with a schedule of available courses for each semester. Every attempt is made to schedule enough courses and sections to meet student demand.

Wake Forest expects that students and parents will realize that fluctuating demand and personnel changes make it impossible to grant each student his or her ideal schedule of courses each semester.

Wake Forest provides the opportunity for students to adjust their schedules after the start of the semester in order to obtain more of the classes they seek.

Wake Forest expects that students will use the drop/add period to adjust their schedules as needed. Wake Forest also expects that students who are particularly interested in getting into a class from off the wait list will attend that particular class from the beginning of the semester. By doing so, students who are able to get into the class will not suffer the consequences of attendance policies, nor of missed class notes, assignments and quizzes.

Wake Forest provides students with adequate breaks from the academic schedule. The University also provides final examinations and tests as important opportunities for faculty to evaluate student work and progress.

Wake Forest expects that students and parents will not arrange vacations, travel plans or other elective activities at times that conflict with students’ classes, examinations and residence hall closing schedules. Examination times for each course are printed in the semester course bulletins for convenience in scheduling travel.

Wake Forest provides the Undergraduate Bulletin for the year in which a student matriculated, until six years have elapsed, as an agreement between the school and the student. After six years, the criteria shall be those of the class with which the student graduates. The exception to this rule is major and minor requirements, which shall be those in effect during the term when a student begins to take courses after declaring a major or minor.

Wake Forest expects students to be familiar with the Undergraduate Bulletin and holds them responsible for fulfilling all course requirements before graduation. Students should pay careful attention to the grade-point averages required to maintain good standing within the College, as listed in the Bulletin. Students are also responsible for maintaining minimum course loads or grade-point averages required in order to retain scholarships or other financial assistance. While advisers serve as guides, each student is responsible for his or her own academic well-being.

Spiritual Growth

Wake Forest welcomes students of all faiths. As an academic community, we are richer and more diverse to the extent that our learning reflects the universal quest for faith. In our academic setting, the pursuit of reason is not narrowly conceived but is informed by the imagination and the quest for spiritual growth. Reason relies upon religion to reveal the meaning of goodness in our lives. Religion depends upon reason to avoid succumbing to delusion and fallacy. We believe that students should explore the spiritual dimension to human existence in ways that prompt examination of self and perceptions of the world.

Wake Forest provides a number of campus ministries and campus religious organizations to serve the spiritual needs of students. The religion department offers a variety of courses to explore the world’s religious traditions. The Divinity School offers programs that enrich the spiritual life of campus.

Wake Forest expects that students will respect the Judeo-Christian heritage of Wake Forest University as well as the freedom of conscience of each student to pursue his or her religious tradition.

Career Planning

At Wake Forest, we are also concerned about career and professional planning for students. Some students come to Wake Forest with fixed career goals; most do not. Many students will change their minds as they explore their own talents and the match between their interests and the world of work. What is fundamental about education is to learn to love learning. Hopefully, Wake Forest students will remain students forever. While on campus, students have the opportunity to dream dreams about their lives and to prepare to live those dreams.

Wake Forest provides an Office of Career Services that assists students in the search for meaningful internships and employment after graduation, brings employers to campus for on-campus recruiting, and provides skill-building workshops on a regular basis.

Wake Forest expects students to understand that they are responsible for conducting their own job searches. In addition, they are responsible for assessing their interests, skills and values; exploring careers of interest; and obtaining on-the-job experience. We encourage students to contact the Office of Career Services early in their college years to begin the search for a meaningful career. The academic departments assist students wishing to pursue graduate study. In seeking graduate and professional school counseling, students work through the individual departments of their majors.