Honor members support proposed reforms to system

Back-to-Basics proposal encompasses trial jury restructuring, informed retraction implementation


Community members and Honor representatives Sunday evening voiced support for the Back-to-Basics proposal announced at last week’s meeting.

Fourth-year College student Owen Gallogly, pre-trial coordinator and co-chair of the Policies and Procedures committee, and fourth-year Engineering student Clifton Bumgardner, vice chair for trials, drafted the proposal, which would include the simultaneous implementation of informed retraction and jury reform.

Honor Committee Chair Stephen Nash said the response so far from faculty, students and Committee members has been positive and the proposal has been a decade in the making, with similar proposals coming to the fore in previous Committee discussions.

Gallogly and Bumgardner’s plan would allow students who have been informed by the Committee of a suspected honor violation to admit their wrong-doing and accept a one year academic suspension. Jury reform would restructure trial juries so that jurors are drawn from the elected Committee representatives, rather than the student body at large.

The Back-to-Basics proposal attempts to iron out the functional inadequacies of the honor system. Currently the Committee handles between 40 and 80 cases per year, but recent polling suggests five percent to 18 percent of University students have committed an honor offense.

“If a student realizes they did commit an honor offense without realizing it, I can only offer them 2 options: to admit guilt and leave the University, or to go through a trial and basically manipulate the system lying,” Honor Advisor Andi Cherneau said.

The presence of experienced jurors adjudicating cases would increase faculty reporting and ensure Committee by-laws are universally enforced when cases come to trial, according to the proposal.

“I was on two trials this weekend and something struck me: that jurors were not paying attention, or being professional, or being engaged when it’s one of the most important moments of the accused [student’s] life,” said Austin Sim, the Medical School representative on Honor. “That we as a committee, having the expertise at a hearing, are not able to do anything spoke to the necessity for jury reform.”

To pass, Back to Basics needs a two-thirds vote of support from the Committee and would then require 60 percent approval from the members of the student body who vote on the University election ballot in March.

Committee members are confident these changes are what is needed to repair some of the structural problems in the honor system.

“We [counselors] bear the brunt of the structural failings of Honor,” said Evan Behrle, third-year College student and Committee support officer. “When a student is on trial and a week later you come back to school with a student who you believe in your heart of hearts is guilty … I’m not trying to be melodramatic, but it wears you down.”

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