Honor ’s Contributory Health Impairment reforms take effect, but still await University Counsel approval

The Committee has adopted a number of changes to its Contributory Health Impairment policy that took effect Monday

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"Any bylaws changes we make have to be approved by the [University] General counsel’s office,” Honor Chair and Medical Student Ory Streeter (right) said. (Some members of the Honor Committee wore Halloween costumes at Sunday's meeting).  

Riley Walsh | Cavalier Daily

The recent changes to the Honor Committee’s bylaws and procedures concerning the Contributory Health Impairment process went into effect Monday, with the Office of the University Counsel still yet to officially approve of the changes.

The Contributory Health Impairment is a procedure that allows students to request a health evaluation prior to moving through Honor proceedings to determine if a mental health condition contributed to the commission of the offense, which is typically overseen by the Office of the Dean of Students and conducted by Student Health or the University’s Counseling and Psychological Services. 

At a previous meeting, the Committee changed the terminology, turning the Contributory Mental Disorder process into the Contributory Health Impairment process to make it more inclusive by acknowledging that the current policy also allows for conditions that are not explicitly mental, such as a brain tumor according to Streeter, but could still contribute to committing Honor offenses.

In addition to changing the term CMD to CHI, the Committee has approved a new timeline in which students in the process will have to adhere to if their CHI claim is to be considered in an Honor trial. The Committee has also approved the removal of the “Admission of Act” portion of the policy which will remove the requirement that an accused student admit an Act, or admit guilt to an Honor offense, before being assessed for a CHI. 

The Office of the University Counsel provides legal advice to all University organizations and offices and must approve any changes to the bylaws of organizations affiliated with the University, such as the Honor Committee, the University Judiciary Committee and Student Council. 

The changes still took effect Monday, but are awaiting formal University Counsel approval, with new cases falling under the changed language in the bylaws. The Office of the University Counsel had not received the bylaws and procedures for approval as of Monday morning, Deputy University Spokesman Wes Hester confirmed in an email to The Cavalier Daily. 

“The recent changes only affect cases where a reported student is choosing whether or not request a hearing on a Contributory Health Impairment (our newly adopted term replacing Contributory Mental Disorder),” Ory Streeter, a Medical student and the Honor Committee chair, said in an email to The Cavalier Daily Monday. “We have a plan for managing any such cases meeting those two criteria between now and University Counsel approval - but that management will necessitate case-by-case consideration.”

Despite an administrative delay on the Committee’s end, Streeter is confident that the changes will be processed and approved quickly. 

At Sunday’s meeting, the Committee fixed a missing definition found in its bylaws, where the term “expert assessment” was never defined in the context of the CHI process. The  assessment is the evaluation used by the Committee to determine the validity of a student’s CHI claim and is typically conducted by the University’s Counseling and Psychological Services department at the Elson Student Health Center. 

The Committee unanimously voted to define an expert assessment as “A written assessment regarding the Student's alleged CHI, including any relevant history if mental or physical health services or treatment, rendered by a qualified person with relevant professional credentials in the assessment and treatment of the impairment(s) in question.”

The new terminology was created in cooperation with University legal advisors and the Office of the Dean of Students at the University, according to Lindsay Fisher, a Law student and co-chair of the policies and procedures subcommittee.

“The background here is that when we adopted the changes to our bylaws, we used this language of expert assessment,” Streeter said at Sunday’s meeting. “This definition was developed in cooperation with Dean Groves and our legal advisory panel.”

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