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Honor Committee proposes constitutional change eliminating expulsion as a sanction

The Committee voted Sunday evening to maintain single-sanction system, plan will go to student vote in Spring

After last week’s meeting, members who proposed the three options moving forward made adjustments and resubmitted plans.
After last week’s meeting, members who proposed the three options moving forward made adjustments and resubmitted plans.

Honor Committee representatives considered three proposed plans to alter its current case process Sunday evening. The committee ultimately voted in favor of proposing a policy that would remove expulsion as a sanction.

For the changes to be made to Honor’s constitution, 10 percent of the student body must vote on the topic during general elections this spring. Sixty percent of those who vote would need to vote in favor of the changes. 

Last week, five plans were proposed, but two were eliminated — one would have permitted the committee to make changes to sanctions each year through the bylaws, while the other would have eliminated the informed retraction process, allowed sanctions to be determine during a student’s hearing and given accused students the opportunity to forego a random panel of students presiding over their hearing.

After last week’s meeting, members who proposed the three options moving forward made adjustments and resubmitted plans to Andy Chambers, chair of the Honor Committee and fourth-year College student. 

The plan that was approved by the committee would maintain the current single-sanction system in place. However, it would eliminate expulsion as a sanction replacing it with a two-semester leave of absence. The informed retraction option would also be reduced from a two-semester leave of absence to a one-semester leave of absence.

Rep. Christopher Benos, third-year Law student, proposed the plan. 

“The proposal protects the community of trust by requiring students found guilty to make amends in the same manner as students who take the Informed Retraction,” Benos’ proposal reads.

Another plan was introduced by Gabrielle Bray, vice-chair for hearings and third-year College student, Caitlin Kreinheder, vice-chair for Education and fourth-year Architecture student and Rep. Catherine Denton, fourth-year Nursing student. 

This plan would have instituted a multi-sanction system, through which a random panel of students and committee members would have voted on the appropriate sanction in each case. The random students would have been selected from the school of the individual accused of committing the offense — the same rule as under the committee’s current constitution. 

Under the Honor Commitee’s current constitution, the only sanction for an individual accused and found guilty of an honor offense is expulsion.

“This is a system that maintains the integrity of the Honor system, while offering the multi-sanction system that prioritizes rehabilitation, recommitment and Honor education,” Bray said during Sunday’s meeting. 

Last week, this proposal included sanctioning guilty students with a two-semester transcript notation, but this faced criticism from some committee members such as Rep. Lucian Mirra, a second-year Education student. Even with an adjustment to two years, the main complaint voiced by Mirra was that a transcript notation could affect students differently depending on their year.

“A two-year transcript notation again for a first-year might not mean as much to a third or fourth year applying to med school or law school,” Mirra said. 

A final option proposed by Chambers would have allowed students to leave admitting guilt at any point before their hearing. Currently, accused students are given a seven-day period after they have been notified that an investigation will be opened into an alleged offense to submit an informed retraction. An IR allows a student who is accused to admit guilt and make amends to the community by taking a two-semester leave of absence, which the proposed plan would not change. 

Under Chambers’ plan, students who submit an IR within the seven-day time frame would be required to undergo a two-semester leave of absence, as would those who LAG. Those who LAG, however, would have to make amends before returning to the University, which would have been decided on a case-by-case basis.

Students would also be allowed to leave admitting guilt up until their hearing as a way to offer a longer opportunity for rehabilitation. Currently, hearing timelines are determined on a case-by-case basis depending on the needs of the committee. 

The time between accusation and an actual hearing can take weeks — or even months — at a time. According to Chambers, this plan would allow students to be informed of all evidence against them throughout the process, and at any point the student can decide to LAG.

“Allowing a LAG at any time before hearing promotes students’ access to evidence when making a LAG decision,” Chambers’ plan reads. 

Committee members in opposition to this proposal felt it was too similar to the committee’s current system and didn’t feel as confident that the current lack of available sanctions other than expulsion with Honor’s system would be addressed. 

“To me it's almost band-aiding what we have, changing certain things, but it's not making significant change,” Kreinheder said. 

At the end of the meeting, members decided to move forward with Benos’ plan to eliminate expulsion as a sanction, but reserved the right to combine it with Chambers’ plan moving forward. Future meetings will be used to alter and amend the current plan ahead of student body elections this spring. 

“I would love to put these two frameworks together because there are elements of this plan, i.e. the sanction and how we deal with a potential second offense that I love,” Mirra said. 

In order for the changes to be made to Honor’s constitution, 10 percent of the student body must vote in elections this spring. 60 percent of those students will need to vote in favor of the changes. 

Sixty-four percent of students voted in favor of the informed retraction in 2013 to incorporate the policy into the Honor constitution. In February 2016 elections, Honor proposed but failed to pass a constitutional amendment that would grant it the mandate to develop a system of lesser sanctions.

The last time a change to Honor’s constitution was proposed during spring elections in 2020, less than 10 percent of the student body voted. This meant that although 90 percent of voters voted in favor of the proposed referenda, they did not pass because turnout did not meet the 10 percent requirement. The committee chose not to introduce referenda last year, citing low voter turnout.


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