• College On Tap

Hammurabi's Code and You: College's Changing Disciplinary Tactics

By: Sam Poulos


How are Colleges planning on keeping all of their students in-line with social distancing guidelines this fall?

Four words: The Code of Hammurabi.

Now, I know what you’re thinking--What place does Babylonian Law have at a University? Surely Assyrian Law would be more apt.

Don’t worry, I thought the exact same thing at first, until I read this notice from Harvard College’s Dean of Grievance Politics outlining the policy change:


Dear Students,

As we prepare for a fall unlike any other, I would like to assure you that every precaution will be taken to ensure the safety of our community. In order to follow through on this promise, we plan on instituting a disciplinary system in accordance with The Code of Hammurabi, the ancient Babylonion system of Law that brought stability to Mesopotamia for centuries. Every student will need to learn at least a lay-man’s understanding of the Akkadian Language (Rosetta Stone is offering a discounted rate for students I think) and practice writing in cuneiform script (you’re on your own for this one) so that they can understand that large stone slab which will be placed at the center of the quad. While the Code of Hammurabi does not directly offer punishments for collegiate infractions, we believe that the values and methodology of the Code will be the most effective manner of accountability.

Here are a few examples of its potential application this fall:

  • Student isn’t wearing a mask in a public place: cut off their hand

  • Student isn’t socially distancing: cut off their hand

  • Student invites visitor onto campus: cut off both the student’s and visitor’s hand

Like so many things in 2020, these new rules will take some getting used to. But as a community, it has never been more important that we understand what we owe to one another (mostly severed hands). In accordance with TItle IX The Punishments from the Code of Hammurabi will be doled out equally regardless of gender identification.

One final reminder, if you intend to bring a wife, child, or serf onto campus this fall, make sure to register them online at Harvard.edu/studentportal so that you can receive their combined body weight in grain on move-in day.

Thanks onto Marduk the rising sun, and see you this fall,

Gil G. A. Mesh

Dean of Grievance Politics, Harvard University


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