McKenzie drops four UJC charges

Honor Chair retracts accusations against four CD managing board members; charges against editor-in-chief still stand

Honor Committee Chair Ann Marie McKenzie dropped University Judiciary Committee charges against four of the five members of The Cavalier Daily's managing board yesterday.

The managing board was accused Sept. 14 of breaching the confidentiality of a former writer accused of plagiarism. McKenzie filed charges contending that an unsigned editorial written by the managing board divulged information which compromised the student's honor proceedings. She charged the five members with violating Standard 11 of the University's standards of conduct, which prohibits "intentional, reckless, or negligent conduct which obstructs the operations of the Honor or Judiciary Committee, or conduct that violates their rules of confidentiality."

According an email sent by UJC Chair Victoria Marchetti early Monday morning, McKenzie has since retracted her accusations against Cavalier Daily Managing Editor Andrew Seidman, Executive Editor Matthew Cameron, Chief Financial Officer Allie Vandivier and Operations Manager Alyssa Juan. Charges are still pending against Editor-in-Chief Jason Ally.

Both McKenzie and Marchetti declined to comment on the developments, but Seidman speculated that McKenzie dropped the charges in the interest of preserving the Honor Committee's reputation.

"It makes the honor code look bad because she's discouraging people from reporting incidents to the Honor Committee," he said. "By taking action against individuals who have reported incidents of plagiarism, Ann Marie McKenzie has created a perverse and bizarre system whereby individuals are punished for doing the right thing." Seidman added that he did not believe McKenzie had "nefarious intentions" in filing the charges.

Because McKenzie, the complainant, dropped the charges against the defendants, it is not clear whether free speech claims by the managing board were a factor in the decision. Only the UJC itself can formally determine whether or not it has the purview to hear a case.

Earlier this week, the managing board argued that the case did not fall within the jurisdiction of the UJC, citing a clause in the UJC constitution which states that the committee "shall not have jurisdiction over the exercise of journalistic and editorial functions by student groups."

The UJC disagreed in a decision released Thursday night, concluding that individual students publishing information in a newspaper are not automatically exempt from UJC jurisdiction.

"The fact that the alleged disclosures occurred in a newspaper does not necessarily absolve the individual students of their duties to uphold any binding Honor Committee policies," the decision reads. "It is evident from the written arguments submitted by both sides that there are clear factual disputes that require further investigation."

Representatives from the Honor Committee, UJC and The Cavalier Daily managing board convened at a meeting Friday to discuss the direction of the case, members of the managing board said. The meeting was moderated by University Spokesperson Carol Wood and Patricia Lampkin, vice president and chief student affairs officer. Both administrators felt the meeting was a productive endeavor.

"The fact that all were willing to come together to meet is very positive sign and shows a great deal of leadership on the part of each student," Wood said in an email. Lampkin echoed Wood's sentiments, but noted that the conflicting ideals were still pervasive in the discussions.

"I thought it was a positive step that the three groups were willing to begin a conversation and try to develop an understanding of how the groups have different responsibilities and purposes," she said in an email. "That said, it was clear that throughout the meeting there were differing opinions and expected outcomes."

Ally acknowledged the heightened tensions, but said the meetings were key in fostering an open dialogue between the parties.

"There were members of the managing board that were frustrated at some of the topics discussed during the meetings and perhaps rightfully so, but in spite of that I did see genuine progress come out of the meetings," he said. "I think they really did establish an avenue for everyone to stay in communication throughout this whole process." He added that the parties are still "in frequent contact with each other."

Although the UJC does not operate on precedent, the Committee has encountered previous issues with jurisdiction with regard to student media groups. In 1985, an ad hoc committee within the UJC proposed an amendment to the UJC bylaws which would grant the body jurisdiction in student media cases. The proposal prompted a coalition of opposition from a number of journalistic organizations on Grounds.

"There was a group of us who got together and made clear our position, which was [that] any effort to give a student governmental entity the authority to regulate what is published in a student media outlet constituted an abridging of the First Amendment," said Greg Trevor, The Cavalier Daily's editor-in-chief at the time. The ad hoc committee ultimately decided to uphold the exemption for student media despite arguments that the bylaws do not afford students enough recourse when their individual rights are compromised by media outlets.

As for the pending charges against Ally, Seidman said the decision to move forward with Ally's case is tantamount to "holding the editor-in-chief of The Cavalier Daily hostage."

"We refuse to let the leader of this organization go to the kangaroo court that is the UJC, an institution whose leaders don't even know its own constitution," Seidman said.

-Although Ally and Seidman read this article before it printed, no member of the managing board edited or altered this piece written by staff members.

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