Honor Committee representatives voiced concerns that the recently-announced constitutional convention may be rushed and fails to represent the graduate community during the group’s Sunday evening meeting. The meeting was attended by 11 out of 23 members, meaning that quorum was not met and the Committee could not vote on constitutional matters.
The meeting began with brief comments and school updates before moving into a discussion about the constitutional convention, which was originally scheduled to be held beginning Oct. 17.
Gabrielle Bray, chair of the Committee and fourth-year College student, announced the convention in an email to the student body Sept. 13. The convention will have 30 seats for representatives from organizations across the University to vote on changes to the Honor Constitution with the end goal of creating a multi-sanction system.
As of Sunday, 17 of 30 spots filled. The delegate list currently includes organizations such as the Brazilian Student Association, the Inter-Sorority Council, the Jefferson Society, the Black Student Alliance,and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People at U.Va.
During the meeting, second-year Law student Rep. Daniel Elliott voiced concerns about the lack of graduate inclusion in the convention. While there are currently graduate representatives from CIOs, no CIOs affiliated specifically with the University’s graduate schools or special interest groups have reached out at the same scale as undergraduate CIOs.
In an email statement to The Cavalier Daily, Bray said she has reached out to the heads of various graduate school councils. According to the Honor Bicentennial Report, graduate students make up about 11.3 percent of honor reports across the University.
“I’m more broadly concerned about not including student bodies at the graduate level,” Elliott said. “I would find it really important to get those voices.”
Elliott also said that the timing of the convention feels rushed and that the majority of the representatives have been left in the dark about the processes of the convention.
“I’m also concerned that we were told we would be voting on delegates to approve [to attend the convention],” Elliott said. “We don’t have any of that and we’re starting in a week.”
Bray acknowledged these concerns, but pushed for the continuation of the original convention plan citing anticipation and interest from the student body.
“I think we have excitement,” Bray said. “There is a genuine interest to make Honor better.”
Ellie Wilkie, vice-chair for the undergraduate community and fourth-year College student, also pushed back against Elliot’s comments about graduates being underrepresented.
“I understand that there's a real feeling among graduate students that they are not represented on Honor, and I really hope we can combat that,” Wilkie said. “But I think it's important to note that there are a plethora of other groups at the University that feel that they aren’t represented on Honor, and that a convention at which we try to reach out specifically to represent those underrepresented groups is important.”
According to the Committee’s Bicentennial Report, Black students are overrepresented in Honor cases by 2.7 percentage points. Similarly, Asian American students only make up 12 percent of the student population but comprised 27.2 percent of all reports. The current Honor Committee is also a majority-white Committee.
Third-year College student Rep. Sullivan McDowell said the Committee should consider taking a step back before holding the convention.
“I feel like this is undoubtedly a very big step for us,” McDowell said. “And if we're going to take this step, we should probably take a deep breath and figure out what exactly it is we're doing and have it be more of a team effort.”
Following similar input from other Committee members including Hamza Aziz, vice-chair of investigations and third-year College student, and third-year Nursing student Rep. Dante Principe, Bray decided to delay the kick-off for the convention until further notice.
“We have groups that are very excited and I don’t want to let them down, but I do think we are beyond the point of compromise [on a date for the convention],” Bray said.
The next meeting will be held on Sunday at 7 p.m. in the Trial Room of Newcomb Hall.