FOIA request targets Honor
Second-year Law student Ronald Fisher submitted a Virginia Freedom of Information Act request Feb. 25 for Honor Committee records concerning private funding for the Committee’s Restore the Ideal Act campaign.
The FOIA request asks for email correspondences between Honor Committee members and private individuals who have funded the campaign. Also requested are an itemized list of funds the Committee has used and the amount of funds still remaining. The request comes after Honor Chair Stephen Nash, a fourth-year College student, stated publicly that the Committee is using private funds to support its campaign.
“The purpose [of the request] is to answer a very simple question,” Fisher said, “Honor has stated [the reforms] are being funded … we absolutely should know where these funds are coming from.”
Fisher said he would pursue the request regardless of the outcome of the reform vote, in part as a reminder to future Committees to be more transparent.
“It is unfortunate these actions needed to be taken,” Fisher said. “The Committee should be open and public.”
Fisher received a reply Feb. 27 from the University’s FOIA office saying his request was being processed. Fisher has not heard directly from any Committee members.
He expressed two main concerns with private funding of the campaign.
“Money being pumped in [suggested the Honor Committee was] trying to buy votes, and thus cheapen the process when the focus should really be on the merits of this issue,” Fisher said.
Private funding could also be mistakenly perceived as University funding, and therefore University endorsement, he said. According to his FOIA request, “distributing free food and promotional materials (such as beverage koozies) to first-year students in their dormitory halls,” gives the incorrect impression the University administration supports the reforms.
Nash said opponents of the reforms, like Fisher, mistake the Honor system for a criminal justice system.
“[Fisher’s arguments are based on] the misconception that our system is a criminal justice system,” Nash said. “That is not the case, and there are key differences.”
The Law School has little experience with the honor system, Nash added.
“The Law School faculty haven’t reported an honor offense in over a decade,” he said. “[It’s] hard to criticize the problems, if people haven’t actually been through the system.”
Nash declined to comment on the source of private funds, saying the information would be released through Fisher’s FOIA request.
The Cavalier Daily also submitted a FOIA request earlier this week regarding funding of the reforms.