‘Publius’ calls for change to honor system, sustained discussion
Honor Committee Chair Hine says writer raises right issues
A letter was distributed around Grounds late Saturday night signed by the alias “Publius” calling for changes to the University’s honor system.
Addressed to “the Community at the University of Virginia,” the letter was posted on academic buildings, libraries and Lawn room doors.
“It is time for us, the students, to finish a conversation that has been started many a time over,” the letter reads. “It is time for us to determine the future of the honor system.”
In an email to The Cavalier Daily, Publius said the University’s community of trust is “at risk of overseeing the slow degradation of an honor system that has been part of the bedrock of this place for 150 years.”
“Some of the letters were collected by staff before students were able to see them in the morning — in the Engineering School for instance,” Publius said in the email. “Letters were also posted to each of the lawn rooms.”
The letter, titled “The Fiduciary,” calls for a “rebirth of honor” in light of complications and frustration with the current honor system.
“The time has come for a discussion surrounding a system that is not simply broken, but dying,” the letter states. “Dying not in ideal, but in the substance of our daily lives.”
Publius said a conversation has already been started to address the changes, but the community had to see it through.
“The Committee members themselves have confirmed the problems that plague the system,” Publius said. “These problems are only getting worse. Students believe in the idea of honor, but no longer trust or believe in Honor. It is time for our community, the individuals that collectively own the system, to discuss its future.”
Honor Chair Nicholas Hine, a third-year College student, said the letter is an accurate diagnosis of the issues within the honor system.
“The memorandum emphasizes all the problems we presented at the Honor Congress — to that end, the content of the letter is not only unobjectionable, but encouraging,” Hine said. “Publius raises all the issues that threaten to undermine the stability of the system, which is why we structured the Honor Congress around these concerns.”
Though Hine agreed with Publius’ analysis of the present state of the honor system, he said the anonymous identity of the author may mar the memo’s legitimacy.
“My only reservations rest with the anonymous nature of the Fiduciary paper only in so far as it creates a distance between the author and the general student body,” Hine said. “But I sincerely hope that it serves its stated purpose and is able to sustain conversations about the future of the honor system.”
As the new members of the Honor Committee were elected recently, Hine said there are not yet any specific plans for changes to the honor system. In the coming weeks, however, the Committee plans to take advantage of feedback from students and organizations on Grounds to brainstorm improvements.
“As we continue to sift through feedback from the Honor Congress, and monitor ideas that rise out of the Fiduciary papers, we will soon be in a position to define our goals for the coming term,” Hine said. “Anything we do change will require the support of the student body, so I am excited to see what comes out of the Publius papers.”
Publius derives its name from the Roman Consul Publius Valerius Publicola. Publius was also a pen name used by the authors of the Federalist papers.
Publius will release a series of papers in the coming weeks concerning the honor system, student disengagement, the disproportionate reporting of minorities and athletes, faculty support, the single sanction and the future of honor at the University.
“It is possible there will eventually be a solution presented, however a solution should not come from one individual or group,” Publius said. “A solution should come from and be discussed by our entire community.”