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Honor Committee approves reform to Informed Retraction process, hears from Honor Audit Commission

U.Va.’s honor system considered essential to community of trust yet inaccurately represents student body, respondents to commission survey say

<p>The meeting concluded with a 18-5 vote in favor of implementing the reform to the Informed Retraction process. Pictured: fourth-year College student and Honor Committee Chair Devin Rossin.&nbsp;</p>

The meeting concluded with a 18-5 vote in favor of implementing the reform to the Informed Retraction process. Pictured: fourth-year College student and Honor Committee Chair Devin Rossin. 

Following a joint meeting with the University Judiciary Committee Sunday, the Honor Committee held its own general body meeting where members voted in favor of implementing a proposed reform to the Informed Retraction process allowing accused students to combine multiple offenses under one IR.

The Committee discussed the proposed reform to the IR process — where students who have been reported to the Committee for an Honor violation are allowed to admit their offense and serve a two-semester leave of absence from the University after being reported by another member of the University community. The reform would allow students to combine multiple singular offenses under a single IR as long as they are reported with specificity, even if the offenses are unrelated or occurred in different contexts.

The meeting concluded with a 18-5 vote in favor of implementing the reform. 

Devin Rossin, a fourth-year College student and Honor Committee chair, told The Cavalier Daily the new reform will only impact cases filed after April 1. This is transition date between the outgoing Committee and the incoming Committee members, who were elected by University students Friday.

“Our bylaws are set to be implemented on April 1,” Rossin said. “Any reports filed after that date will be subject to this bylaw. Anything from prior to that will not be.”

According to Rossin, the reform will go into effect beginning with support officer and Committee member training.

“What we’ll be doing at the next few support officer meetings and Committee meetings is training so folks are able to implement this as well as possible,” Rossin said.

Prior to vote on the IR reform, the Committee heard a presentation on the findings of the Honor Audit Commission. Phoebe Willis, a Law and Darden student who chairs the commission, spoke with the Committee. Willis is also a former student member of the University Board of Visitors. 

The Honor Audit Commission was created by the 2015-16 Honor Committee and met for the first time in the summer of 2016 to lay out the goals and plans for its work, which concluded this spring with its final report. The Commission was created to review the Honor system as a whole and help better connect students to the Honor Committee.

Willis summarized the findings of the 16-member HAC to the Committee at the beginning of Sunday’s meeting. Willis said the HAC worked for the past 18 months to evaluate the general state of the Honor system. 

Rossin and Willis will present the findings of the HAC to the Board of Visitors Friday. 

“We had this very broad mandate to look at the health of the Honor system,” Willis said. 

Willis said in order to fulfill their mandate, the HAC looked at historical analysis, survey data and conducted a comparison with 24 other peer institutions. The majority of Willis’ presentation focused on the survey data, which was compiled out of 300 student responses. The responses came from a pool of 1,000 students who were picked to accurately represent the demographics of the University student body. 

Through survey data, the HAC found that the Honor system is perceived to be an effective component of the University, with 84 percent of surveyed students stating that they believe Honor is essential in upholding the community of trust at the University. However, the survey responses also showed the perception of Honor representation among the student body does not appear to be as well received. Only 19 percent of surveyed students know who their Honor representatives are and 28 percent of students believe that Honor accurately represents the diversity within the University student body.  

The next Honor Committee meeting will take place March 18, and the Executive Board for the incoming Committee will be announced March 25.