Honor Committee support officer demographics show slight deviations from U.Va. student body

Underrepresented student groups include women, international students

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The Honor Committee selected 54 new support officers in October. 

Riley Walsh | Cavalier Daily

The Honor Committee released the demographic data for its latest class of 54 support officers in a meeting Sunday night. The data shows slight underrepresentation of some groups in the support officer pool when compared to the University’s total demographics — including for women and international students. 

The demographics do not cover the entirety of the support officer pool, only the most recent additions, according to Ory Streeter, the Honor Committee chair and a Medical student. Included in the demographics are a comparison of the makeup to the University and a breakdown of rejected students’ ethnicity and gender throughout the selection process. 

“We're generally looking for a support officer class that is broadly representative of the student population that we serve,” Derrick Wang, a third-year College student and Honor’s vice chair for community relations, said in an email to The Cavalier Daily. “This means recruiting students from all different backgrounds, whether that's racial/ethnic minorities, international students, transfer students, graduate students, or other under-represented groups at UVA.” 

Last month, the Honor Committee selected 54 new support officers out of 149 initial applicants, a 36 percent acceptance rate. Undergraduate students make up the majority of the new support officer class, outnumbering graduate students 44 to 10. 

The gender makeup of the new officer class is slightly skewed towards men relative to the University’s student body as a whole, with 29 men and 25 women. The University’s enrollment is 53.93 percent women and 46.07 percent men. 

The latest support officer class underrepresents several minority groups, according to the Committee’s data. Underrepresented groups include African-American, Hispanic and Latinx, and “other” — a group consisting of multiracial students, Native Americans, Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders and international students. 

African-American students make up 4 percent of the new support officer class — a 2.41 percent underrepresentation as they comprise 6 percent of the University (both graduate and undergraduate students), a number calculated by the Committee using University statistics.

Hispanic and Latinx students make up just under 6 percent of the new support officer class, or three officers. Hispanic and Latinx students comprise 6 percent of the University student body overall. 

Students in the “other” category make up 9 percent of the new support officer class — a 9.66 percent underrepresentation as they comprise 19 percent of the University (both graduate and undergraduate students).

Caucasian students make up 69 percent of the new support officer class — a 11.32 percent overrepresentation as they comprise 57 percent of the University.

Asian-American students make up 13 percent of the new support officer class — a 1.17 percent overrepresentation as they comprise 12 percent of the University.

The application process shows an almost flat rate of acceptance across all applicants. Out of 149 applicants who made it to the interview stage, 98 were Caucasian with 37 being accepted — a 37.76 percent acceptance rate. Out of 14 multiracial students who were interviewed, 5 were accepted — a 35.71 percent acceptance rate.

African-American students were accepted at 33.33 percent, with 2 students chosen out of 6 interviewed. Out of 24 Asian-American students who applied, 7 were accepted — a 29.17 percent acceptance rate. Out of 5 Hispanic and Latinx applicants, 3 were accepted — a 60 percent acceptance rate. Additionally, of three international students who applied, two were accepted — a 66.67 percent acceptance rate.

Wang said there are no quotas for certain groups which the Committee aims to meet when selecting support officers. 

“We don't have specific numerical targets for how many students of any particular demographic we want to recruit, but we use UVA's diversity statistics as a benchmark to measure the diversity of the support officer pool against the UVA population,” Wang said. “Overall, this year's class was demographically similar to last year's class, making it one of the more diverse classes in recent years.”

He added that the Committee is also in the process of drafting reports based on this year’s recruitment process in hopes of attracting applicants from more diverse backgrounds. However, Wang said the Committee has already undertaken a series of initiatives during this past recruitment season to broaden its outreach — including holding additional information sessions and interviews, hosting interviews in more convenient locations and eliminating a previously required quiz for applicants in favor of a written application. 

The Committee also discussed adding a third representative from the Engineering school to the Committee, another student who would be elected by the Engineering students to serve on the Committee. 

Julia Batts, a fourth-year Engineering student and vice chair for education, also proposed adding a third Engineering representative — who could be either a graduate or undergraduate student —  to the Honor committee at Sunday’s meeting. This would help the Committee better handle the caseload, according to Batts. 

Currently, every other school which has representatives on the Committee has two members, like the Engineering School. By comparison, the College has five representatives on the Committee, and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences has two. 

The proposed change is in its infancy, with the actual amendment still yet to be written or voted on. 

“I don’t want you to get too attached to the specific language here,” Streeter said, adding that a draft is likely to take a week or two to write.

“[Since 2014,] 25 percent of cases have been Engineering students,” Batts said. “Our number of cases has mirrored or exceeded the percentage of Engineering students [at the University.]”

The prospect of adding a new representative raised concerns among Committee members about setting a precedent for adding too many representatives to the Committee long-term. More specifically, members worried the College could end up with a disproportionately large number of representatives if the number of representatives were to be based on the enrollment total of each school. 

Other Committee members, such as Ankita Satpathy — a fourth-year College student and vice chair for hearings — refuted this concern, saying academic understanding of the accused student’s work is more important than the makeup of the Committee. 

“It’s helpful not to think of it in terms of proportionality, but what adding another rep would bring,” Satpathy said.

Proponents of adding another Engineering representative said that the course content of Engineering classes requires a specific knowledge set that is underrepresented the Committee.

“If you’re expected to look at a graduate level computer science case, it’s really hard to know what’s going on,” said Peyton Sandroni, a fourth-year Engineering student and vice chair for investigations. “We’ve all written a paper before, but not all of us have written code.”

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