The Honor Committee met last Sunday to discuss modifying their definition of lying and the procedure for dealing with recusals from the executive committee. The Committee also discussed the lack of voter turnout for its referenda in the 2020 University-wide elections.
The Committee continued last week's discussion about refining the definition of “lying” as it pertains to Honor violations. One area of contention for the Committee was about what the scope of the Committee should be when adjudicating cases of lying. Some members argued that there are a lot of areas that lying can occur in — besides a pure “academic” setting — that should be included in the definition of lying in order to protect the community of trust at the University.
Todd Truesdale, a second-year Law student and representative who drafted the proposal for the new definition of lying, advocates for this expansion of the definition of lying.
“I don't want to speak for the Committee as a whole, but I think everybody that voted on this proposal would say that an academic lie is something that we at Honor should adjudicate,” Truesdale said. “I think professional lies would be included, so that would include examples of lying on your resume. Both have a particular effect on the community of trust.”
An example of an academic lie would be a lie told concerning the academic institution of the University, especially lies related to classes and academic assignments. An example would be lying to a professor to get an extension for an assignment. A professional lie is a lie related to a person’s career, including outside of the University.
Truesdale also argued that there are other types of non “academic” lying that the Committee should concern themselves with.
“Some of the other cases — the institutional and organizational cases — are also important, particularly for the community of trust, because if a first-year student were to look at an organization and say this is a University sanctioned organization, then statements made by officers of those organizations will be relied upon,” Truesdale said. “I think [these] should be within the ambit of Honor.”
Controversy arose over whether the Committee has authority over social lies — lies told amongst University students, outside of a student organization. Truesdale defined whether a social lie is trivial or not based on the consequences of the lie.
“If a lie was so significant that it affected your standing in the Community of Trust, it would go beyond interpersonal,” Truesdale said.
An example of a significant social lie, as defined by Truesdale, was given by Lyon.
“If someone went around saying that someone made an incredibly racist comment [when they did not], that would be a potentially reputation ruining lie,” Lyon said. “This is not related to the institution, but it is substantive.”
Certain members of the Committee were concerned that expanding the scope of Honor’s authority, especially in regards to including potentially “trivial” social lies, could be potentially too taxing for support officers. Other members, such as second-year Medical student Peyton Terry, think that being overcautious by avoiding to take “trivial” cases could be detrimental to the University community.
“I would rather have Honor take 10 stupid cases than have somthing like [a damaging social lie] happen to a student and Honor not address it,” Terry said.
The Committee decided to take more time to refine the definition of lying and postponed the vote until next session.
The Committee then discussed two proposals for handling recusals for members of the Executive Committee. Recusals occur when a member of the Executive Committee has a conflict of interest related to a vote on a certain topic, so they choose to abstain from voting on the issue. For example, an Executive Committee member might choose to abstain from voting on an issue if a decision made by the Committee affected a close friend of theirs.
The first proposal argued that if there are only three voting members, the vote must be unanimous for a proposal to pass. If only two members of the executive committee are available to vote, then the committee cannot take any actions. The second proposal argued that if there are only three voting members, the vote would only need a two thirds majority to pass.
In contrast to the first proposal, the second proposal would allow executive actions to be carried out by two members. Lyon explained how the discourse in the Honor meeting favored proposal one.
“[Proposal two] was kind of off the table pretty quickly because the sentiment was that two executive committee members are not enough to make a decision,” Lyon said.
The Committee voted unanimously to support proposal one. The new rule will go into effect on April 13.
The Committee also discussed low voter turnout for the Honor referendums.
University-wide elections — which closed Feb. 28 — included two proposed referenda by the Committee. These changes included an amendment to allow the Committee to convene its popular assembly annually and an impeachment amendment that would enable the Committee to remove a member with four-fifths of the representative vote. Due to low voter turnout of only nine percent, neither referendum passed.
Representatives at the meeting discussed how voter turnout is a common issue that needs to be addressed. Lyon stated that Honor is working to figure out how to best address low voter turnout.
“We had a support officer pool meeting right before our committee meetings. During that meeting yesterday, we talked about the low voter turnout and how we might be able to address that,” Lyon said. “And there were a lot of good ideas and so our executive committee is going to kind of come together this Friday and distill all that.”
In addition, the Committee discussed how there are still vacancies for Honor Committee positions for certain schools — such as the Curry School of Education and the School of Law — that Committee members are trying to fill, respective to the schools’ own recruitment and selection procedures. The deadline to fill these vacancies is this Friday.
The Honor Committee meets on Sundays at 8 p.m. at the Honor meeting room, which is located on the fourth floor of Newcomb Hall.