There's ongoing concern at the University about racial bias and student athlete spotlighting in the honor system. Less than half of the respondents to the 2001 Honor Survey believe the honor system treats all students fairly. Sunday the Honor Committee released the system's case statistics for the past year, including information on how many minorities and athletes had cases initiated against them. The data indicates that bias is present not within the honor system, but in the University community as a whole.
Faculty and students file honor charges against minorities and athletes in numbers disproportionate to the composition of the student body. Between April 2000 and April 2001, 77 charges were initiated against students. Only 44.2 percent of those students were white, although the student body is 71.2 percent white. Black students comprise 23.4 percent of those investigated but only 9.5 percent of the student body, and no black students were convicted. Twenty student athletes were investigated, but none convicted.
The high investigation rates for athletes and black students should alarm the University community. These statistics could indicate that students and faculty members have biases against these groups, believing they are more likely to commit honor offenses than other students are. This could lead to a heightened scrutiny of these groups' behavior, causing more charges.
No black students or athletes charged were convicted, which could signify that innocent students are being charged. This also could be a sign that these groups are targeted and cases initiated for relatively minor offenses other students get away with.
It's conceivable that members of the juries in honor cases are aware many people think the system is biased, and they don't want to perpetuate this by finding blacks and athletes guilty. But even if this is true, the case initiation statistics still point to initiators as those who are biased.
It's time for the University community as a whole to accept responsibility for the perceived bias in the honor system. The Committee has made a concerted effort to address this problem, which appears to have been successful over the past year. Now faculty members and students must become more conscious of their actions and make sure not to use race, athlete status or any other irrelevant factors when deciding to initiate cases.
It's disheartening to discover that being a "good guy" isn't the only qualification necessary to get the Gus Blagden room on the Lawn. The selection process is described as equal opportunity and students are encouraged to nominate their deserving peers. But it looks like nominating students who aren't in secret societies is a waste of time.
The past three residents of the room have been members alternately of either the IMP or Z secret societies. Secret society membership should never become a prerequisite for the room. It unnecessarily restricts the candidate pool to a narrow and unrepresentative slice of rising fourth years and disadvantages many deserving "good guys."
By all accounts, Brian Edmonds is an outstanding individual who deserves to live in the room next year. But we hope that any secret society affiliation he may have was not what landed him the room. The trend needs to be reversed so that integrity of character remains the selection committee's most important consideration. This will ensure that the Gus Blagden room always is awarded to the most deserving candidate, regardless of secret society status.