Honor Committee hosts mock trial
Wengel stresses transparency of honor system
On Thursday, about 40 first-year students attended the Honor Committee’s annual mock trial in Gilmer Hall.
Honor Committee support officers played a trial in which “Prof. Stephen Nash,” named for former committee Chair Stephen Nash, accused “first-year Owen Gallogly,” named for a former committee support officer, of cheating.
Fourth-year College student Brittany Wengel, the vice-chair for education, said the trial was an opportunity to see the committee’s process in action.
“This is the best way we can really show you what happens,” Wengel said. “Most community members don’t get to see what happens behind closed doors.”
The trial chair started off the event by reading the jury instructions to a panel of students, who served as jurors. Throughout the trial, the chair used the same script read in every honor trial.
The students in attendance had the opportunity to ask questions, as jurors do at all trials, and deliberated the merits of the case. The vast majority of attendees voted for “Gallogly’s” guilt.
In an attempt to make the trial more engaging, the support officers created a backstory for the trial involving pseudo-Gallogly cheating on a paper about Lady Gaga in a class on divas and pop culture.
“If he was trying to hide it, he clearly didn’t have a very good ‘poker face,’” the fake Nash said.
Fourth-year College student Christopher Peña, who played “Owen Gallogly,” agreed with Wengel that the mock trial serves to create a greater level of transparency in the Honor Committee trial process.
“[Honor Committee trials] can seem daunting,” Peña said. “I knew I wasn’t actually on trial, but my heart was still racing.”
Second-year College student Caroline Herre, an Honor Committee support officer who played “Stephen Nash,” said she hoped students would appreciate the thoroughness of the trial process.
“It was easier to understand how the system worked when you didn’t have to worry about the very specific case,” first-year Engineering student Katie Rouse said. “[But] they don’t assume that you’re guilty. They give you a chance to represent yourself.”
Rouse said the Honor Committee’s single sanction left her uneasy about the system generally. The informed retraction policy, which permits accused students to plead guilty and leave the community for two academic semesters, made her more comfortable with the idea of single sanction in the event a guilty student fails to take to take advantage of the new policy.
“If [informed retraction] didn’t exist, I would be more hesitant,” she said. “I think it is harder than other schools, but I feel like it’s almost more of an incentive. They wouldn’t risk leaving the school.”
Drew D’Amato contributed with reporting to this story._