The University Judiciary Committee and Honor Committee elected third-year College students Lauren Kim and Andy Chambers as their chairs for the 2021-22 academic year, respectively. Kim and Chambers succeed this year’s UJC chair — fourth-year Batten student Gabby Cox — and Honor chair — fourth-year Batten student Ryan Keane.
UJC investigates and holds trials for reports of violations of the University’s Standards of Conduct while the Honor Committee focuses on reports of Honor Code violations.
University-wide elections took place March 17 through March 19 when Chambers and Kim secured positions as school representatives. Internal elections then took place afterward among the newly elected Honor representatives March 27 and among UJC representatives March 28. The transition to new committees took place in the beginning of April.
UJC Chair Lauren Kim
Kim joined the First Year Judiciary Committee during her first semester. FJYC consists of 12 first-year student judges that oversee trials for fellow first-year students. In her second year, Kim served as UJC’s data manager and oversaw various projects, including creating a group budget spreadsheet for the organization and translating the UJC constitution into Spanish and Mandarin. This academic year, Kim took on the role of vice chair of sanctions, through which she helps students complete the trial process.
The accomplishment Kim takes most pride in is the retraining workshop she organized last fall with former vice chair of trials, third-year College student Slade Sinak. The retraining workshop served as a mid-year refresher for student judges on choosing appropriate sanctions. Kim spoke to them about her personal philosophy on sanctions, which is that they should be “educational, rather than punitive.”
“Our job isn't to ask for the student’s forgiveness [or] make them beg for it, but it's up to us to help them learn to not make the mistake again or forgive themselves,” Kim said.
Kim’s passion for helping students motivated her to run for UJC chair. She also hopes to take advantage of the publicity work involved with being chair to change student perceptions of UJC as a “policing force.”
“I believe that, as chair, I would be able to show UJC’s heart for helping the students on a wider scale,” she said.
A Feb. 18 spring 2021 update email from University administrators encouraged students to report group and individual COVID-19 violations to the University. The email was sent following a drastic rise in cases partially attributed to in-person Inter-Fraternity Council and Inter-Sorority Council recruitment events.
In response, UJC released a statement Feb. 24 addressing COVID-19 violation reports by asserting that the organization “is not a group that encourages self-policing nor supports any authorization of increased police presence on Grounds.”
As chair of UJC, Kim will serve as UJC’s main point of contact with the administration and administrative bodies such as the Office of the Dean of Students and Housing and Residential Life, updating them on UJC’s work and communicating any concerns to representatives. Within UJC, Kim will head the executive committee and ensure the organization operates smoothly.
Her platform is three-pronged, focusing on outreach, mental health and restructure.
Internally, Kim hopes to build a stronger UJC community among the organization’s three pools of support officers — investigators, counselors and educators. Investigators create a record of events for both the alleged violation occurrence and the trial process while counselors represent accused students and complainants during the trial process and educators focus on outreach to the University community.
“We are a professional body, but it's hard to balance being a professional body and also enjoying each other's company,” she said.
To move UJC towards becoming more transparent with the University community, Kim plans on regularly emailing UJC updates to a set list of student organization leaders and academic program directors. UJC had released statistical reports at least once yearly from fall 2012 to spring 2017, according to their website. No newer reports were published until this year, when a fall 2020 infographic and a spring 2021 mid-semester report were released. UJC states that more data is available upon request.
Kim also envisions building on previous chairs’ work by inviting various student organizations to present to UJC, such as multicultural or political contracted independent organizations, to grow closer to the University community. Expanding on co-sponsorships — a program in which UJC funds events and projects on Grounds — is another avenue Kim wants to take by encouraging UJC members to volunteer at co-sponsored events.
“There’s so many realities here at U.Va. and I would like to expose them all to different groups and people that they may not have interacted with before,” Kim said.
Similarly, Kim plans on reaching out to multicultural groups during the recruitment process to work towards accepting a new group of UJC members that are more representative of the student body.
“Something that I noticed, as a minority woman, is how white and male UJC leans,” Kim said. “I think just looking around the committee, it’s very clear that there is a white majority.”
According to an internal survey from last fall, out of 165 active support officers — excluding educators and those who did not work on a case that semester — 41 students reported identifying as Caucasian, 5 students identified as African American, 4 students identified as Hispanic and 8 students identified as Asian. This semester, out of 184 active support officers, 43 students identified as Caucasian, 10 students identified as Asian American, and the number of African American and Hispanic American students remained the same. Not all active support officers responded to this portion of the survey.
The same internal surveys reported a greater number of active female-identifying support officers than male by a difference of less than 10 students, though Kim noted that this was not representative of the entire UJC body. In comparison, 55 percent of the Class of 2023 identify as female, while 45 percent identify as male.
Last June, a group of Black student activists published a list of demands for UJC and Honor, calling for a greater commitment to diversity and inclusion within the organizations. Kim noted that a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee in UJC was created this year as a response to the demands and that she plans to continue actualizing UJC’s commitment to diversifying its members. At the retraining workshop last fall, Kim encouraged judges to move away from sanctioning ride-alongs with University Police.
“I felt that it was unfair that we were sanctioning students to be in a space where they may feel uncomfortable this year,” she said.
Supporting the mental health of UJC members and students undergoing trials is another priority for Kim, who noted that accused students and support officers experience a lot of stress due to the confidentiality of the process.
“I know firsthand that being a counselor or being a support officer is really, really stressful and draining,” Kim said. “I know for students, because I’ve worked with them in the past, the time leading up to trial — the pure investigation — that is an incredibly stressful time for accused students.”
One idea Kim has is to work with Counseling and Psychological Services to offer weekly office hours with CAPS staff. The office hours would be open to everyone involved in the trial process.
The last aspect of Kim’s platform centers around restructuring various processes in UJC, such as recruitment and post-trial feedback. Currently, only executive members — who consist of the chair, four vice chairs, five senior officers, and the FYJC chair and vice chair — are involved in the recruitment process.. Kim wants to bring in support officers as well, giving them more say in selecting students who they will be working with in the future.
Additionally, Kim wants to improve the post-trial feedback form, which allows judges to comment on the performance of counselors and investigators. She hopes to develop a system that moves beyond the format of a simple paper form and refines the types of questions judges are asked to answer.
This past election cycle, UJC successfully passed a referendum with an 85.63 percent vote. The amendment to their constitution updated language to include gender expression, updated member requirements to allow second-year judges and lowered the number of votes required to pass an amendment.
“For the first time ever, we will have second-year judges, which I think is a great way of engaging underclassmen … [and] also just engaging a whole other group of people with different viewpoints,” Kim said.
The referenda passed this year will also permit UJC to propose major amendments to its constitution following a two-thirds vote with four-fifths of representatives in attendance, rather than the former requirement for a two-thirds vote of everyone in the committee. Minor amendments can be passed by unanimous vote of representatives, without ratification by the student body.
Kim responded to concerns over giving UJC more power over the student body by clarifying that the minor changes UJC intends to make will update the language of their texts, not their meaning, according to the language of the revised constitution — for example, changing pronouns to be gender neutral.
To accomodate COVID-19 safety guidelines this year, UJC has transitioned to virtual proceedings. Kim wants to continue offering trials over Zoom for students who cannot make it to the trial rooms in Newcomb Hall.
Kim will also be continuing a project passed down from the previous chair, which looks to shorten the trial process. According to Kim, trials can last several hours to several days, which can be taxing for accused students. She plans to continue her predecessor’s mission by carrying over a new practice from this semester, which allows students to leave while a trial is under deliberation and take a break before receiving their results at a later time.
“I really want to show … every student that goes through our process that this school not only cares about their educational growth — their academics — but also their mental growth and just general life growth as well,” Kim said.
Honor Chair Andy Chambers
Chambers first joined Honor in his first semester and served as a support officer for two years before being elected last year as vice chair for hearings.
“One of the reasons I came to U.Va. was because I love the idea of the Community of Trust, and I love the idea of the Honor system making lives of U.Va. students better — allowing them room to wiggle, room to grow, room to be students and have trust,” Chambers said.
Chambers cites one of his biggest achievements in Honor as facilitating the transition to virtual hearings for this academic year. Working through the summer and fall with fellow Honor members, Chambers helped introduce a virtual hearing procedure in October, through which a year’s worth of cases were processed over the last six months.
Chambers characterized the role of chair as an overseer of the organization who “sets the vision” for the academic year and said that he decided to run for the position because he wanted to guide Honor towards change and improvements within the system.
His ultimate goal for the upcoming year is to set up referenda to propose next spring. Chambers plans to discuss such big-picture ideas at his first Committee meeting as chair. This year, Keane said Honor chose not to introduce referenda, citing that several committee members felt it would be a “waste of time” based on the low turnout of previous years.
Honor and UJC require 10 percent of the student body to vote in order to pass referenda. In the past, student turn out for referenda in student body elections has hovered around 8 percent — this year, however, the election had a record turnout with 25.4 percent of students voting on referenda.
“I think this committee is particularly situated — especially coming out of COVID — to put up some constitutional referenda that will provide the student body agency with the system,” Chambers said.
Specifically, Chambers expressed interest in transitioning Honor from a single-sanction system to a multiple-sanction system. The current single sanction system — which has been in place since at least the 1970s — offers expulsion as the only punishment for a student found guilty of committing an Honor offense. A move to multiple sanctions would have to be planned and agreed on not just by Chambers as chair, but also by the over 20 Honor representatives leading the organization with Chambers before proposing the change as a referendum. Single sanction has been put to vote several times over the years in general elections, including during the spring 2016 election when the referenda almost received enough votes to change to a multiple-sanction system.
“When I campaigned on that sort of idea, it seemed to resonate with the committee, so I’m hopeful that we can get that done this year,” he said.
Another amendment Chambers was interested in looking into revolved around reforming the informed retraction system. An informed retraction is when a reported student takes responsibility for an alleged act of lying, cheating or stealing prior to initiation of an investigation and is able to continue their education at the University following a two-semester leave of absence. In contrast, a conscientious retraction allows students who may have committed a potential Honor offense to come forward and admit to the act and make amends — as long as they do not have any reason to believe that they are under suspicion of having committed an Honor Offense.
Chambers acknowledged concerns over how some students may not be able to afford the costs of living away from school for a year. He hopes to work with the Committee this upcoming year on potential avenues for improvement.
“A year off is just a lot to ask a student, and while college can be a bit of an equalizer with things like financial aid and scholarships, it fails to do so when you remove them from the college setting,” Chambers said.
Similar to Kim, Chambers aims to focus on building connections between Honor and the University community. He wants to continue utilizing Honor co-sponsorships to support other student organizations and look into more outreach and education events across Grounds.
“We’re really just trying to pour back into this community and make sure that Honor has a visible and positive role in the life of any given U.Va. student,” he said.
In regards to communicating face-to-face with the community, Chambers hopes to utilize the Honor Committee’s upcoming Popular Assembly as a way to educate students on how the Honor system works as well as garner support for referenda. The Popular Assembly — which occurs every two years — is an event that educates the University community on Honor and encourages greater student involvement in Honor. He also wants to move town halls outside of Newcomb Hall to make the Honor Committee more accessible to public comment.
“I think there’s a significant value to be had in making yourself accessible to folks, making sure that we understand what people are frustrated with,” Chambers said.
Chambers’s aspiration is that by making the Honor Committee less “isolated” from students, many misunderstandings can be cleared up. One of the biggest misconceptions he hopes to correct focuses on single sanction — that reporting a potential violation to Honor will lead to expulsion. Chambers clarifies that the Honor process offers many outcomes besides expulsion, including filing an informed retraction.
Chambers also mentioned an idea proposed by the incoming vice chair for community relations — third-year Commerce student Jack Stone — to push back the selection process for support officers several weeks to ensure Honor is able to recruit a more diverse officer pool. The effort to diversify Honor also addresses the BIPOC demands from last year.
“Our support officers are often the point of contact with anyone going through the system, and it’s really important that they have some sort of identity or common ground with the accused students,” Chambers said.
The Honor Committee’s 2019 Bicentennial Report revealed that students who identified as Black or African-American historically experienced disproportionately higher sanction rates, though that has not been the case since 2014. A more current Statistical Transparency Reporting Portal, released this year, shows that international and Asian students face disproportionately higher sanction rates.
Chambers noted that the portal — an effort to communicate more effectively with the public — analyzes data of accused students, which is a much smaller population compared to the whole student body. However, he added that educators in Honor have led education events specifically for international students in response to the disproportionate impact.
“I encourage anyone and everyone at the University … to not be a stranger to the Honor Committee,” Chambers said. “I think I speak for a large portion of the committee when I say that we like hearing from people who either vote for us or don’t vote for us, we like hearing critiques of the system, we like hearing what people think about the system.”
Correction: This article has been updated to clarify that several Honor Committee members felt a ballot initiative would be "somewhat of a waste of time," not Keane or Chambers specifically.