The Cavalier Daily
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Handled with honor

Transparency is a welcome change for the Honor Committee

THE HONOR Committee is to be commended for the way it handled the question of validity for a referendum submitted after the Committee’s deadline but before the University Board of Elections’ deadline. This was a difficult situation that should not have occurred, but the Committee took the appropriate action by making this decision as transparent as possible to the University community. That being said, the Committee should not have to evaluate its constitution through the lens of student opinion. The controversial nature of this referendum made that unavoidable; a less controversial referendum would not have received such scrutiny. The honor constitution must be amended to avoid the necessity of interpretation in this area in the future.

The Committee openly debated the issue Sunday night and Honor Chair Jessica Huang did not make a decision until after hearing from the Committee. This shows a good faith effort on the Committee’s part to make this controversial decision as transparent as possible. Huang has also said she will submit an editorial to The Cavalier Daily to explain the reasoning behind her decision. This level of accountability to the University community is a long desired change and should be continued in the future.

The Committee also showed a willingness, should the referendum be declared invalid but receive more than 60 percent of the student vote, to act on the mandate of the student body and hold a special election for a valid referendum. This shows flexibility on the Committee’s part and a commitment to the student body above all else. The Committee showed a willingness in this situation to respect the opinion of the student body and stand by a precedent set before this Committee was in place. This is notable because in this case, standing by precedent could significantly change the University’s honor system by eliminating the single sanction. That was not the case with the two previous referenda that established this precedent.

Such a drastic change is more than enough reason to ignore precedent and decide only based on what the constitution itself has established. Since the wording of the Committee’s constitution is, in this instance, ambiguous, the Committee had to interpret its constitution to the best of its knowledge, which is much greater than the average student’s. Because the Committee is elected each year, each committee could potentially interpret the constitution differently. Many students felt precedence should be followed in this instance and also felt it would have reflected very poorly on the Committee if it was not. Interpreting a constitution cannot be subject to popular opinion, however. This opens the honor system to abuses by the majority of the student body, who is not well educated about the constitution.

In some cases wording is best left ambiguous, to provide for future changes. This is not one of those cases. The Committee must clarify the language of its constitution so that this problem, which has occurred three times in the past four years, does not happen again. In this instance the Committee handled a difficult situation well but it must also provide a systematic solution for the future.


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