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Honor Committee debates use of the informed retraction in Sunday meeting

Of the 22 representatives in attendance, 20 are in favor of keeping the IR in the constitution

<p>Honor Committee members discuss the viability of the informed retraction alongside Constitutional changes during Sunday night meeting.</p>

Honor Committee members discuss the viability of the informed retraction alongside Constitutional changes during Sunday night meeting.

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Following its decision last week to move forward with a plan eliminating expulsion as a sanction, the Honor Committee met Sunday to discuss the usefulness of the informed retraction as a part of its penalty system.  

Currently, the IR offers a way for students to admit guilt and take responsibility for their actions. After a report of an Honor offense has been submitted, there is a seven-day period during which students can submit an IR. Once a student files an IR, they are able to finish the current semester and are then required to take a two-semester leave of absence from the University. After completing the leave and making amends determined by the school, department or class where the offense was committed, the student may return to the University community.

Last week, committee members voted to approve a proposal that would maintain the current single-sanction system, but would reduce the penalty of expulsion to a two-semester leave of absence. The plan will be voted on this spring — 10 percent of the student body will need to vote and 60 percent of those votes will need to be in favor for the constitutional changes to pass. 

With expulsion being reduced to a two-semester leave of absence, members questioned whether it would make more sense to mandate a one-semester leave of absence versus a two-semester leave of absence for a student who chooses to file an IR, as well as the usefulness of the penalty more generally. 

Honor Representative Katherine Zain, fourth-year Batten student, supported keeping the IR because it offers students a chance to take responsibility and show their commitment to the community of trust.

“I think the IR incentivizes honesty and to take accountability for your actions,” Zain said. 

Zain also said she hopes keeping the IR will appease students who were in favor of a multi-sanction system by still allowing accused individuals multiple paths once they have been reported. By maintaining the IR, students would not be required to go through the entire trial process. 

Caitlin Kreinheder, vice chair for education and fourth-year Architecture student, said she was concerned many classes are only offered in either the spring or the fall semesters and as a result, implementing a one-semester IR leave of absence could end up causing students to take off two semesters anyway. 

“One semester off would effectively be two,” Kreinheder said.

Some members also supported the idea of allowing the Conscientious Retraction to take the place of the IR. A student may file a CR before they have gained any knowledge that they are suspected of an Honor offense if they wish to admit to the act. 

After successfully filing a CR, the case will not proceed to a trial and the student is allowed to remain in the community of trust. However, the other parties involved — such as faculty members — are able to determine the consequences the student will face, which could include receiving a zero in the class or being required to take a course again. 

According to Chambers, the Honor Committee processed 30 or 40 CRs during the 2020-2021 school year. In comparison, an average of less than 10 IRs have been filed each year over the past four years.

Representative Lucian Mirra, second-year Education student, also pointed out the need for the Honor Committee to outline consequences for students who file two IRs or are convicted of two Honor offenses. 

“So we have CRs that fail, right, because the student doesn't get to Honor before the professor does and it creates this foot race,” Mirra said. “What are the consequences of a second guilty verdict or a second accusation?”

The Committee plans to debate in the coming weeks whether to instate expulsion as the sanction for a second offense.

Another concern was introduced by Maggie Regnery, vice-chair for investigations and fourth-year Commerce student, who suggested that the Honor Committee might see an increased caseload if they were to get rid of the IR. Because every reported case would have to go to trial without an IR, Regnery worried the Honor Committee’s trial system would become overwhelmed with trials. 

Gabrielle Bray, vice-chair for hearings and third-year College student, said she believes the committee would be capable of handling an increased caseload. 

“We've already talked about accounting for this in the number of new support officers we brought in . . . and that will be adjusted for in future recruitment,” Bray said. 

According to the Honor Committee website, there are currently 98 support officers.

Representative Shalami Baram, graduate Arts & Sciences student, recapped what she has heard from fellow representatives on whether or not maintaining the IR would be useful or redundant in the context of the new sanction system.

“The dispute I’m hearing about the IR is basically that I think some people want to afford students some kind of incentive for honesty, or some kind of compassion,” Baram said. “But some, I think, are rightfully afraid that it may be an easy cop-out.”

At the end of the meeting, a non-binding vote of committee members was taken as a way for Andy Chambers, chair of the Honor Committee and fourth-year College student, to document representatives’ opinions.

Of the 22 representatives in attendance, 20 are in favor of keeping the IR in the constitution. When the committee officially votes later this semester, at least 20 votes in favor will be required for this change to be presented to students during spring elections.

A second vote was also held to determine the length of the sanction for someone who files an IR. Of the 22 representatives in attendance, only seven voted to change the IR to a one-semester leave of absence. 

The voting that took place Sunday was not binding, though it provided members with a better sense of where other representatives stood in reference to the IR. In the coming weeks, the committee plans to continue to work out details of the proposed constitutional changes in preparation for student voting this spring.

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