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Honor Committee passes by-laws allowing representatives to attend meetings and vote via Zoom

Representatives discussed the merits of permitting virtual meeting attendance

<p>The Honor Committee met virtually for a period due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and when the Committee returned to in-person meetings last fall, between two and three members joined via Zoom for several weeks.</p>

The Honor Committee met virtually for a period due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and when the Committee returned to in-person meetings last fall, between two and three members joined via Zoom for several weeks.

The Honor Committee passed a set of by-laws allowing members to attend meetings and vote virtually during the second meeting of its new term Sunday. The by-law will require there to be an in-person quorum of 18 members before virtual attendance is allowed for any remaining members, and members who wish to attend virtually must have their reasoning approved by the chair. As long as these conditions are met, all members will be able to vote whether in-person or virtually.

During Sunday’s meeting, 18 out of 27 total members were present in-person, meeting the 18-member requirement to reach quorum. When the Committee meets quorum, representatives are able to officially vote on by-law changes or changes to the Committee’s constitution. 

Rep. Tim Dodson, graduate Architecture student, supported the by-law, citing that it will put a permanent system in place in case the Committee is faced with an extenuating circumstance, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, again.

“In the coming months and years we don't know what things are going to be like so it'd be helpful to just have this procedure in place,” Dodson said. 

John Sun, third-year Commerce student and vice-chair for hearings, also expressed his support for the change as it accommodates extraordinary circumstances such as sickness or personal emergencies. 

“We have this apparatus to make sure that if there is indeed an emergency that prevents us from meeting we have some instrument that lets us hold this meeting completely virtually,” Sun said. 

Rep. Kelly O'Meara, graduate Architecture student, however, disagreed with the by-law, saying he believes students are elected to represent their respective student bodies in-person. 

“I would vote against an amendment that would suggest any sort of virtual or proxy voting online,” O’Meara said. 

Rep. Robert McLeod, second-year Law student, cited a few underlying concerns about the by-law — such as members abusing the ability to attend online in instances where they don’t have a valid excuse —  given the fact that representatives wishing to attend virtually must submit a reason to the Chair made him comfortable with voting in favor.

“All [the by-law] really gives you is the right to ask and that request could still be denied,” McLeod said.                 

With 13 out of the 18 members present voting in favor, the by-law passed, making it the third by-law passage in the past two Committee meetings. In the Committee's first meeting April 10, two sets of by-laws were passed — the first eliminated the response portion of the case process and the second distinguished between the sanction for a guilty verdict and an Informed Retraction. 

Prior to voting, Gabrielle Bray, chair of the Honor Committee and third-year College student, also said the Committee has entered into the Committee’s first co-sponsorship of its term with the Black Student Alliance. Co-sponsorships are agreements with other student organizations that provide funds for programming involving education on the Honor system as a component.

BSA requested $1,500 dollars to help fund an upcoming leadership conference to be held in Charlottesville. The event will last from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and offer leadership workshops and professional headshots. Bray said the Committee will also have a presence at the event, but did not specify how so or to what extent.

Following the results of this meeting, the new Committee now has passed three sets of by-laws, a stark comparison to the previous Committee’s inability to reach pass by-laws for several months. The next meeting will take place at 7 p.m. in the Trial Room on the fourth floor of Newcomb Hall.