Honor Committee College candidates debate reforms

Minority Rights Coalition, Committee co-host event; aspiring representatives discuss platforms


The Honor Committee and the Minority Rights Coalition co-hosted a debate Saturday that featured seven candidates running for College Honor representative. The discussion mainly centered on the recently proposed honor system reforms.

Debate moderators included Politics Prof. Larry Sabato, Honor Chair Stephen Nash and MRC representatives Erin Abdelrazaq and Zain Shaikh.

The proposal, titled the Restore the Ideal Act, would allow students charged with an honor offense to submit an informed retraction — a guilty plea that would result in a one year suspension — in addition to reforming jury composition, making them consist solely of Committee members.

Six out of the seven Honor candidates present expressed support for the act, while third-year College student Julie Yee opposed part of it.

“I agree with informed retraction, but not elected juries,” Yee said. “I would support greater education and screening to make sure students are fully engaged throughout the jury process.”

The candidates also pushed for increased outreach efforts to educate students about the honor system.

“What we’ve been doing right now is focusing on going toward students — we want to have discussions with them,” third-year College student Conor O’Boyle said. “Another way we could do this is instead of going toward them is let them come to us.”

Third-year College student Christopher Pena said as a member of the Honor Committee he had become aware of a need for increased diversity and targeted outreach efforts. “Two-thirds of cases I’ve taken have involved international students,” he said. “I think as well, there should be a focus on education of faculty. They need to make their honor policies clear to international students.”

Third-year College student Evan Behrle said student approval of the reforms would be only the first step. “If [Restore the Ideal] passes, we’ve really only done half the job,” he said. “My fear is that if it passes, there will still be discomfort in the system.”

O’Boyle proposed constant evaluation of the system’s effectiveness to address any ongoing student concerns. “We need to actually audit what we do — not just blindly throw out packets,” he said. “When we start to identify where our problems are, that’s going to help us a lot.”

Pena said the idea for the reforms at first startled some representatives, who were hesitant to label the current honor code as a “broken” system. “Some [people] were concerned that we’re putting the idea out there that the system is broken — once we do that, we can’t go back,” he said.

But Behrle embraced the idea that the system is broken, seeing that as a starting point for making the necessary changes. “We still have a broken system, and we have a responsibility to restore it any way we can,” he said.

Every Honor representative candidate from the College was in attendance other than third-years Will Lovell and Blake Wheelock. Voting will begin Feb. 25.

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