The Honor Committee met Sunday night to vote on the official language for “bad faith” –– a term referring to Honor charges reported with malicious intent to damage the Community of Trust. Previously, “bad faith” appeared without an explicit definition in the Honor bylaw’s sections about reporting and investigating an Honor offense. This new vote will now provide an official definition. The vote passed with 20 Committee members for, one opposed and two abstaining. The Committee also unanimously agreed to set minimal standards for the vice chair of education’s role. The rest of the meeting addressed the lack of candidates for Honor representatives and debated the definition of lying.
Honor Chair Lillie Lyon, a fourth-year in the College, mentioned that the approved definition of bad faith will not change Honor’s proceedings. Rather, the new language states Honor’s official understanding of the term that had not been explicitly stated in their bylaws prior to the vote. According to the updated Honor bylaws, bad faith involves “dishonest intent by the reporter in reporting a case.” After bad faith claims are initiated by the accused student or Honor investigators, the Executive Committee determines whether the bad faith charges are true. If the Committee finds evidence of bad faith, then the case will be dropped.
“It's just much clearer notice and we're still, of course, happy to talk to students who think that their case may qualify for a bad faith dismissal to provide some more context of their questions,” Lyon said. “But it at least gets it out there in our official document on our website about generally how we think about it.”
During the community input portion that allows students to talk directly to the Committee at the beginning of the meeting prior to the vote, the Committee was asked how Honor will file University Judiciary Committee charges against bad faith accusers and whether the Honor Committee will rely on victims of bad faith to enforce the bylaw. Lyon responded that Honor will consider these instances on a case-by-case basis.
“I think there could be circumstances under which it meets the bar for bad faith, but the executive committee doesn't feel that it would be appropriate to report to UJC,” Lyon said. “I just think that there are a lot of small things that could tweak how that's being thought of and considered. And so the answer, which I know is probably not fully satisfying, is potentially, but also potentially not depending on the particulars.”
Alex Gregorio, a third-year in the School of Law and Darden School of Business, is concerned about Honor potentially not taking a more definite stance on how the Committee will deal with accusations made in bad faith.
“Students need to believe in a community of trust, and they need to believe that Honor is actually acting to protect the community,” Gregorio said. “Some people can and will perceive it as Honor being unwilling to protect their systems and procedures from abuse. They have a policy in place, they just are not clear if they want to actually enforce it.”
Gregorio also elaborated on the potential harm that he sees Honor’s current stance could have on University students.
“A bad faith accusation is not only a weaponization of the Honor system, but effectively using the Honor system and the procedures we have in place to hurt other students,” Gregorio said. “It should not fall on students to protect the Honor system from abuse.”
Lyon noted that the vote for codification of the VCE’s role, currently held by Mary Beth Barksdale, a fourth-year in the College, will separate the VCE’s responsibilities for educating the University community from the Vice Chair for Community Relations, currently held by Lucy Krasker, a fourth-year in the Commerce school. The approved bylaw now provides a guideline about what’s required of the VCE position. This includes overseeing the production of the Popular Assembly and educating incoming University students about Honor.
“It was clear that the VCE is in charge of education, which is the most important part, but it wasn't as clear what the Committee considers to be its major education efforts every year, and thus what sorts of things that VCE should be looking to do,” Lyon said. “I think it's helpful to provide some structure to that.”
The Honor Committee also addressed the lack of candidates running for Honor representative positions this year. A number of schools either have one or no candidates running, including the Architecture School, Curry School of Education, Nursing School, School of Continuing and Professional Studies and School of Engineering.
Although the lack of candidates concerns Lyon, she mentioned that Honor has a procedure of appointing candidates by having the school council select a student from the school to fill the positions. The only requirements to be an Honor Committee school representative involve enrollment in the specific school during the Honor term.
“We will do our best to work with the individual schools to make sure they're aware that the vacancies exist [and] that they know their processes for filling these vacancies,” Lyon said.
The Honor Committee went on to debate Honor’s definition of lying. Todd Truesdale, a Law representative and second-year Law student, commented that the current definition is too broad. His suggestions to improve the definition include clarifying the definition of a social lie –– an obstruction of the truth between two friends made over petty matters, such as the closing time of a restaurant –– and the difference between institutional and noninstitutional lies.
The Committee decided to push the vote for the redefinition back a week in order to make necessary changes.
“What we need to figure out is a concise and clear way to word it,” Lyon said. “We need a week to kind of sit down and think through that.”
Honor Committee meetings take place Sundays at 8 p.m. in the Honor meeting room, located on the fourth floor of Newcomb Hall.
Correction: This article previously misstated that the bad faith definition will appear in Honor’s constitution. It has been corrected to reflect that the passed language will appear in Honor’s bylaws. The article also previously stated that Lyon’s answer to the community’s question was that Honor’s response would depend on the “politics.” It has been corrected to reflect that Honor’s response would depend on the “particulars.”