Honor Committee votes to add gender-inclusive language to bylaws

The committee also voted to introduce a referendum for gender-inclusive language in the Honor Constitution

The Honor Committee held two votes at their weekly meeting Sunday, one of which resulting in the change to gender-inclusive language in the Honor bylaws. The other vote resolved to introduce a referendum in next semester’s University elections to change the Honor Constitution language to be gender-inclusive as well.

Both votes passed unanimously. 

Ory Streeter, a Medical student and Honor Committee representative, opened the conversation about changing the bylaws’ language.

The Honor Committee began discussing the language change last month, with the initiative spearheaded by Streeter, a Medical student and Honor Committee representative.

Kyle Mayo, a Darden student and Honor Committee representative, asked about whether the Committee planned to vote on a referendum regarding the language of the current Honor Constitution. Streeter noted that a vote to change the language of the constitution to be more gender-inclusive would be another vote entirely. 

“The way the referenda stuff works is that we have our language, but then we actually work with [the University Board of Elections] to tailor the description of what those changes mean and why we’re doing it, and the implications of it,” Streeter said. “Our goal would be ‘This is the language we’d like to see proposed’ but there’s actually a lot more that goes into the actual creation of that referenda.”

Rossin said for a referendum to change the language of the Honor Constitution to pass, 60 percent of the students who participate in the referendum must vote in favor of the change and at least 10 percent of the student body must vote for the change.

The Committee voted unanimously to introduce a referendum on the Honor Constitution’s language.

Rossin opened the new business section of the meeting by introducing the topic of using psychological evidence in Honor trials. 

“It’s been previously interpreted that no psychological evidence whatsoever could be allowed at a hearing,” Rossin said. “And what we discussed, and what [Owen Gallogly, a Law student and Honor Representative] actually brought up is that is not the exact language within the bylaws, and I don’t recall where it actually is, but the sum of it is related to the commission of the act, which would be deemed out of scope at a hearing.”

Rossin said some instances of including psychological evidence, which are unrelated to the commission of an act, can aid the jury in making an accurate decision. 

“An example of this would be, ‘I looked like I was looking at someone else’s piece of paper or test during this day, because I have ADHD,’” Rossin said. “Something like that wouldn’t be related to the commission of the act.”

According to Rossin, Jeffrey Warren, a fourth-year College student and Honor Committee vice chair for hearings, has already begun to get pre-hearing coordinators on board with this interpretation of the bylaws, and that the purpose of introducing the topic at the meeting was to see whether there was consensus from the Committee about this interpretation. 

Will Rainey, a fourth-year Engineering student and Honor representative, voiced concerns over the proposed interpretation of using psychological evidence in Honor trials. 

“I think this is a slippery slope,” Rainey said.

Warren said he and others believe in the proposed interpretation of the bylaws because “what the bylaws say is that it really robs [the defendants] of the argument that they’re making.”

“A student might have a condition that causes them to be put under suspicion but not actually cause them to commit an Honor offense,” Warren said.

Hannah Chacon, a Medical student and Honor representative, pushed back on Warren’s arguments and noted that allowing information about psychological disorders to be introduced in trials could potentially absolve students of cheating under the proposed interpretation of the bylaws.

“It’s not exactly saying ‘Oh, I have ADHD so I couldn’t have cheated’ — it’s actually directly related to the Honor offense in that way and they’re using it for a defense for why it couldn’t have happened, so it doesn’t really fall within the loose interpretation,” Chacon said. 

Committee members seemed open to this interpretation, but did not take any votes on it at their meeting.

Correction: The article previously misstated that George Maris was present at the meeting. Ory Streeter opened the conversation about changing the bylaws’ language.

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