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Honor students' right to vote on retraction

THE HONOR Committee needs to get back in touch with students. Less than a year after students soundly rejected the Honor Committee's proposed changes to the way trials work, Honor representatives now have voted not to place a referendum on the ballot for this spring's elections. Maybe the representatives are too afraid to taste defeat again, or maybe they're scared students will pass a change they don't all approve of. Whatever the excuse, students need a proposal to vote on come Feb. 24.

Everyone agrees the honor system needs fixing. Guilty students walk away unblemished, athletes and minorities are disproportionately targeted, not enough students are willing to turn each other in, and the list of gripes goes on. So a primary job of elected representatives is to explore possible ways to improve the honor system. To make a significant change, the Honor Committee presents the proposal to the student body, which either passes or tables it. That mix of input, from both representatives and students, is critical to Honor's success. If students have no say - no proposal to vote on - at the end of this month, this year's class of representatives will have failed to serve the University.

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  • The Honor Committee
  • The Honor Committee has spent significant time over the past months discussing the informed retraction proposal, which would allow guilty students to confess and leave the University for about two years rather than be subject to permanent expulsion if convicted under the single sanction. After trying to iron out the proposal's details, the Committee's work culminated in a vote requiring two-thirds approval to put informed retraction on the spring ballot. The proposal fell two votes short and therefore is not slated for a student vote.

    Honor representatives who voted against the proposal failed to serve their constituents. It doesn't matter whether they agreed with informed retraction; a negative vote says students shouldn't even get the chance to decide for themselves on the proposal. That's arrogant, presumptuous and a big reason many students aren't too fond of the Honor Committee to begin with.

    After a semester in office, the Committee is ready to present students with ... nothing. Fortunately, some on Honor see something wrong with this picture. Led by College Rep. Michelle Jones, they're petitioning to place informed retraction on the spring ballot. If Jones garners 1,880 signatures by Feb. 15, Honor's vote will be overruled and students will have a chance to decide on the issue after all.

    For the next five days, students should seek out and sign this petition. A signature indicates no preference on the proposal itself, but merely an affirmation of the right of each student to have a say on the issue. Students shouldn't let the Committee squash informed retraction without giving it a fighting chance.

    If the rest of the Honor Committee representatives care at all about serving University students, they will aid Jones in the signature search. This can include mass e-mails, door-to-door marketing, or passing the clipboard in class - anything to show students that their voices matter to allrepresentatives, not just a select few.

    If the petition is successful, the Committee will have just over a week to educate students about the proposal. But this isn't a problem. University students are more than capable of finding out for themselves about informed retraction by speaking with their friends, using information the Committee posts on its Web site, and following Cavalier Daily news coverage. Last year, the Committee's one-sided education - some might say propaganda - efforts did little to convince students to "pass the proposals" and "strengthen the system." Whatever education endeavors the Committee does undertake, representatives should present both sides of the informed retraction issue rather than pressuring students to vote a certain way. That's the only honorable way to educate.

    Honor representatives are students; their friends are students; their classmates are students. More than half the representatives realized this when they voted in favor of the informed retraction proposal. The rest are out of touch.

    Certainly, being on the Honor Committee gives representatives specialized knowledge and an inside perspective the rest of us don't have. But it doesn't make them so smart they should shoot down a decent proposal without giving students a say.

    (Jennifer Schaum's column appears Mondays in The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at jschaum@cavalierdaily.com.)

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