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Honor keeps grievance panel in 7-7-1 vote

Honor Committee Chairman Hunter Ferguson broke a tie vote and decided to retain pre-trial grievance panels after the Committee voted 7-7-1 on the issue in its meeting last night.

Students are able to appeal cases to a grievance panel after being accused of an honor offense but before going to trial.

Ferguson decided against eliminating the panel because the Committee has not fully discussed its merits, he said.

Several Committee members expressed concern about the panel because the current bylaws concerning the panel allow the Executive Committee to appoint itself as a grievance panel and dismiss a case.

In a case last May, an accused student requested a pre-trial grievance panel because portions of the tape of his I-Panel hearing were inaudible.

Three members of the Executive Committee called for a grievance panel, appointed themselves as the grievance panel and then dropped the case.

The fallout caused one Committee member and two support officers to request Ferguson's resignation.

Under the written bylaws, when a student is suspected of an honor offense, evidence is gathered and presented before an Investigative Panel. Known as the I-Panel, it is composed of three rotating members of the Committee.

If two-thirds of the I-panel determine it is more likely than not that the student committed an honor offense, he then is formally accused and a trial is held.

But after debating the grievance panel issue, the Committee voted 2-12-2 against an amendment that would have kept the Executive Committee from maintaining total control over creating and composing the panels, and 7-8-1 against eliminating the panels altogether.

Graduate College Rep. Alastair Findeis said the panel is necessary because it allows the Committee to drop cases where issues of fundamental fairness have been violated, before an accused student undergoes the emotionally exhausting affair of an honor trial.

If a case is grievously flawed, "it's not fair to the accused to make him go through the trial," he said.

With a pre-trial grievance panel "if there is something horribly wrong, it can be dropped," he added.

But some Committee members said the panel unnecessarily complicates an already complex set of bylaws.

"Why do we need a million different check valves if we already have good ones in place?" Darden Rep. Dandridge Woodworth said. "The more we streamline the system the better."