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Honor Committee debates proposed additions to the Constitution

Four proposals suggest new case processing strategies under a multi-sanction system

Sunday’s meeting was adjourned at its scheduled ending time of 8 p.m. The next Honor Committee meeting will be held Sunday at 7 p.m. in the Trial Room of Newcomb Hall.
Sunday’s meeting was adjourned at its scheduled ending time of 8 p.m. The next Honor Committee meeting will be held Sunday at 7 p.m. in the Trial Room of Newcomb Hall.

The Honor Committee discussed four new proposals for constitutional amendments concerning sanctioning and guilty panels, as well as introducing a newly elected Committee member at its meeting Sunday. The Committee met quorum with 17 out of 23 members present, meaning the Committee could vote on constitutional matters and by-laws. 

In the wake of last year’s landmark change to the Honor system that reduced the single sanction from expulsion to a two semester leave of absence, the Committee hosted a Constitutional Convention during fall semester to solicit student and community feedback in drafting a multi-sanction system. 

While the convention — made up of 30 delegates from Contracted Independent Organizations across Grounds — was twice postponed in October and December, delegates were ultimately able to draft a proposal for four possible additions to the constitution in a meeting held three days prior to the first day of class. These proposals were shared with the Committee prior to Sunday’s meeting. 

All of the proposals describe a system with two panels, one to determine guilt and one to determine sanctions. While no amendments have been passed which officially create a multi-sanction system, the four proposals are preparation for when a multi-sanction constitution is drafted and passed.

The first proposal is that there be multiple possible sanctions for the Informed Retraction — a process allowing a student who has been reported for an Honor offense to take responsibility before an offense is reported and complete a two-semester leave of absence. With this proposal, the case would first move to an all-student panel to determine guilt, then to an all-Committee panel to decide proper sanctioning. 

If the student is found guilty on a “clear and convincing” standard of evidence, the sanctioning would then be limited to include a two-semester leave of absence or a temporary transcript notation but not a permanent transcript notation. 

A “clear and convincing standard” is a standard of evidence that is believable but not without room for doubt, while a “beyond reasonable doubt” standard of evidence refers to evidence that is verifiably and definitively true, without room for doubt. 

If the student is found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt then the sanctioning panel will consider all three sanctions. The first proposal is the only one that differentiates between clear and convincing standards of evidence and guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

The second proposal is similar to the first, except rather than a standard of evidence determining possible sanctioning, sanctions would depend on a voting percentage from the all-student guilt panel. If the vote for guilt is not unanimous, then sanctions will be limited. If the vote for guilt is unanimous, then the sanction panel will consider the full range of sanctioning. 

Unlike proposals one and two, the third suggests the panel for guilt be made up of half students and half Committee members. The panel for sanctioning would be a panel consisting of only Committee members. 

Hamza Aziz, vice chair for investigations and third-year College student, cited concerns about having a different group of people making a decision regarding guilt and sanctioning. With separate groups making these key decisions, Aziz said key parts of the case may be misconstrued or missed completely across the two separate panels.

“I think my problem with the first few proposals is the fact that the Committee members who are going to be making a sanction decision are not going to be in the Honor hearing,” Aziz said. “People in that separate sanctioning panel are not going to have the full picture.” 

The final proposal dictates that the decision for guilt  and sanctioning be decided by the same panel made up of half-students, half-Committee members, eliminating the concerns suggested by Aziz. 

In addition to the four proposals, fourth-year College student Rep. Sullivan McDowell said that expulsion should be reincorporated as a sanction in Honor policy. McDowell disagreed with the proposals that allow non-Committee panels to sanction students in any capacity. 

“There's three things that I feel like I need to see in a constitution,” McDowell said. “One is a multi-single sanction that includes expulsion. The second is committee panels deciding on sanctioning and the third is changing our standard of evidence from beyond a reasonable doubt to a clear and convincing standard.”  

The Committee did not come to a definitive decision concerning the four proposed amendments. 

The Committee then moved into a discussion for a new proposal for an amendment called the “stakeholder proposal.” This proposal dictates that when students return to the University following their leave of absence, they will be required to continue to make amends — which are still being determined — and if they fail to make amends properly, may be subject to expulsion. 

There was general disagreement with this proposal amongst the Committee including from fourth-year graduate Architecture student Rep. Kelly O’Meara, who said found the prolongation of the punishment unusually harsh. 

“Frankly, I think an expulsion at the first sanctioning would feel more merciful than to kind of drag them on,” O’Meara said. 

McDowell agreed with O’Meara, stating that the proposed amendment would be unfair to students. 

“It's this idea of, ‘we're gonna punish you once and then if you don't meet our expectations we're going to hit you with a more severe punishment,’” McDowell said. “That just doesn't feel fair to me.” 

Along with the proposal debate, Honor also introduced a new Committee member. Third-year Commerce student Rep. Brianna Kamdoum will join fourth-year Commerce student Rep. Jane Lyons in representing the McIntire School of Commerce. Kamdoum was an Honor Support Officer before joining the Committee. 

The Committee also shared updates including that Committee members are working to translate Honor documents — such as the Constitution — for international students and planning a forum to discuss the role of generative artificial intelligence in academic integrity. 

There is also a date set for the event to engage faculty members with Honor which will take place Feb. 17 at the Colonnade Club from 5 p.m to 7 p.m. The next Honor Committee meeting will be held Sunday at 7 p.m. in the Trial Room of Newcomb Hall. 

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated that student panels were a new proposal and that delegates had met during and outside of the convention meetings to draft the four proposals. However, student panels have been used in the past and delegates met three days prior to the start of classes to draft proposals.The article has now been changed to reflect these corrections.

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