A look back at the 2017-18 Honor Committee

Highlighting the Committee’s largest initiatives

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The 27-member Committee implemented multiple initiatives intending to increase fairness and transparency in the Honor process throughout their term.

Navya Annapareddy | Cavalier Daily

The 2017-18 Honor Committee undertook major initiatives during its term in hopes of making the system more fair and inclusive. 

Presented below are brief descriptions of some of the Committee’s largest initiatives — improving the Contributory Mental Disorder Process, holding a single-sanction debate with the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society, moving towards collecting self-reported student demographic data, reforming the Informed Retraction process and releasing a report from the Honor Audit Commission.

The 27-member Committee was chaired by fourth-year College student Devin Rossin. The committee was vice-chaired by four fourth-years — Batten student Lucie Oken as Vice Chair for Education, Engineering student Brandt Welch as Vice Chair for Community Relations, College student Sarah Killian as Vice Chair for Investigations and College student Jeffrey Warren as Vice Chair for Hearings. In addition to implementing reforms intended to increase fairness and transparency in the Honor process, this cohort oversaw the successful passage in March of a University-wide referenda calling for integration of gender-neutral language in the Honor Committee constitution.

The 2018-2019 Committee will be chaired Medical student Ory Streeter.

Contributory Mental Disorder process

Warren introduced possible changes to the Contributory Mental Disorder process in October. The CMD process required students to admit to an Honor offense prior to requesting a psychological evaluation to determine if a mental disorder contributed to the commission of the Honor offense. 

Warren stated that changes would allow students to request a psychological evaluation prior to admission of an Honor offense to determine if the mental disorder was the direct cause of a committed Honor offense. 

Rossin told The Cavalier Daily in March the process surrounding the proposed changes to the CMD process was lengthy and required substantial background research, and that the incoming Committee would be responsible for implementing the majority of changes.

Ankita Satpathy, third-year College student and incoming vice chair for hearings, told The Cavalier Daily in March that one of her goals for the upcoming term was to continue the Committee’s efforts to reform the CMD process.

“I think last year’s Committee did a great job with the beginning to think about how we might 

reform our contributory mental disorder process,” Satpathy said. “I’d certainly like to see our Committee pick up where they left off and start thinking about some of the ways we can make that process more fair to students and better consider the mental health of students in our process.”

Single-Sanction debate with Jefferson Literary and Debating Society

The Honor Committee co-hosted a live-streamed debate with the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society in October. The debate focused on Honor’s single-sanction system, a process unique at the University to Honor. 

The single-sanction system — Honor’s mandate that if a student is found guilty of an Honor offense at trial, they will be expelled from the University — is a controversial topic among the University student body.

Honor’s participants in the debate were Warren and outgoing Law representative Owen Gallogly. Gallogly defended the single-sanction system and Warren argued against the single-sanction system during the debate.

Rossin told The Cavalier Daily after October’s debate the purpose of it was to facilitate educated conversation on the single-sanction system among the student body. 

“I think something like this, where students can hear deep and nuanced concerns from two people who have a large degree of familiarity with the system on two different sides of the aisle, would lead to hopefully a more substantive understanding of the process,” Rossin said. 

In March, Rossin told The Cavalier Daily that the debate was beneficial in pushing conversation among the Committee about reforming Informed Retraction process and that he personally believed it was an enjoyable event. 

“I think that was an amazing event that we put on,” Rossin said. I really, really enjoyed it.”

Collecting self-reported student demographic data

Rossin introduced a plan in January that would automatically aggregate self-reported demographic data — including ethnicity, gender and athletic status — for students involved in Honor system processes. Rossin stated that the plan would make Honor a more transparent system by allowing the Committee to track trends over time and determine if students with certain demographic qualities are over-reported to the system. 

“The purpose behind it is kind of two-fold … one, an issue of transparency and two is trying to make sure the system is as fair and [equitable] as possible,” Rossin told The Cavalier Daily in January. “I think it’s going to be really important in the future and a pretty big accountability measure for us.”

The demographic data will be collected from students who are reported to Honor by members of the University community — such situations would include students who take informed retractions, students whose Honor cases are picked up or dropped by the Investigative Panel and students who got through the trial process. 

Informed Retraction reform 

Rossin formally introduced a proposal in February that would allow for the Informed Retraction process to be reformed. 

In the IR process, a student who has been reported to the Committee for a potential Honor violation is permitted to admit to their offense and take a two-semester leave of absence from the University. The proposal allowed students to combine multiple offenses — even if the offenses occurred at different times or under different contexts — under a single IR, so as long as students reported the offenses with specificity. 

Christopher Benos, a fourth-year College student and outgoing College representative, told The Cavalier Daily in February that the intent behind the proposal was to help cultivate a fair and transparent process for students moving through the Honor system. 

“I think the Committee has a consensus that the intent behind this proposal is positive and looks to make the system simpler and fairer,” Benos said.

The reform was passed in March with an 18-5 vote. 

Peyton Sandroni, a third-year Engineering student and incoming vice chair for investigations, told The Cavalier Daily in March that ensuring the success and smooth implementation of the reform would be a primary focus for the incoming committee.

“I think one of the main changes is going to be the [Informed Retraction] reform that recent committee just passed, and I think we’re going to have long discussions about exactly how we plan to implement it and what that means for the system in the upcoming year,” Sandroni said. 

Honor Audit Commission report 

The Honor Audit Commission was formed by the 2015-16 Committee to evaluate the Honor system and bridge existing gaps between Honor and the University student body. The Commission released its evaluative report in March. 

Led by Law and Darden student Phoebe Willis, the 16-member Commission worked for 12 months in order to compile the report. The report consists of three primary components — a section comparing student self-governance and the honor system at the University to 24 peer institutions with similar practices, data from a faculty survey and the results of a student survey. The report additionally highlights the process of selecting Honor support officers as well as the criteria, scope and process of a case making its way through the Honor system. 

The report clearly identified an overlap of students who feel the Committee represents student opinions but does not effectively represents the diversity of the student body. Through surveys of representative samples of both University students and University faculty, the Commission also found that a majority of student and faculty respondents support an Honor penalty which varies depending on the severity of the offense. 

In the report, the Commission also implemented recommendations for the Committee on how to continue to grow as a system and remedy identified problem areas. 

Willis told The Cavalier Daily in March that the Committee is not required to address the observations and recommendations the Commission made in its report. Rather, the report includes suggestions to inform the future work of the Committee. 

“It is up to Honor to decide if and how they will address those areas,” Willis said.

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