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Honor Committee sends new constitution outlining multi-sanction system to student body

The new constitution is the first successful multi-sanction legislation since the Honor System’s induction in 1842

<p>The new constitution will now go to the general school election to be voted on in early March.&nbsp;</p>

The new constitution will now go to the general school election to be voted on in early March. 

The Honor Committee passed its updated constitution within the Committee at their meeting Sunday, after years of attempts to introduce a multi-sanction system. The constitution — which will still need to be ratified by the student body vote in March — outlines guidelines for the multi-sanction system, including the reintroduction of expulsion as a sanction following last year’s reduction of the single sanction of expulsion to a two-semester leave of absence.

Under the new constitution, students will be tried before a panel for guilt made up of five randomly selected Committee members and seven random students. The five Committee members who participate in the panel for guilt will make up the sanctioning panel — sanctions under the new constitution include but are not limited to expulsion, a two-semester leave of absence, amends and education.

The updated constitution passed with 18 out of 22 votes in favor — exactly meeting the Committee’s requirement of two-thirds of total 26 Committee members in favor. The committee met quorum with 22 out of 26 members present.

Expulsion and other “permanent sanctions” will not be considered for students found guilty unless five-sevenths of the random student panelists decide that the offense calls for such sanctions, a decision that came after some debate at the meeting Sunday.   

Some Committee members, like Graduate Architecture student Rep. Tim Dodson, said he would prefer the random student vote be unanimous in order for the sanctioning panel to expel a student. 

“I think students are very skeptical about expulsion in particular,” Dodson said.  “And I think that bringing it back means that we have to have some sort of really high bar to clear.” 

Graduate Architecture Rep. Kelly O’Meara disagreed with the unanimity standard, saying that despite student skepticism towards expulsion, in certain cases, expulsion is a necessary sanction.

“You have to recognize a lot of people's claims are based on valid sympathy towards people being expelled,” O’Meara. “Just because we don't want to expel a student doesn't mean an offense doesn't rise to the level of discussion.” 

Prior to voting, the Committee members continued the discussion from last week's meeting of the standard of evidence that the Committee uses to determine guilt. Gabrielle Bray, chair of the Committee and fourth-year College student, held an informal poll by asking members to raise their hands where the majority of Committee members were in favor of maintaining “‘beyond a reasonable doubt” as the standard of evidence.

Some Committee members — including second-year Law Rep. Daniel Elliott — said they disagreed with the decision to continue using “beyond a reasonable doubt” as the standard of evidence and likened it to the standards currently used in criminal law. 

“It is insane that we are the only school in the nation that treats cheating on a test with the same evidentiary severity that we treat murdering people,” Elliott said. “It doesn’t work in practice.”

In other university Honor systems, such as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s, the standards of evidence that are most commonly used are the “more likely than not” or the “clear and convincing” standards. Both of these standards require lower levels of evidence than evidence “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Hamza Aziz, chair for investigations and third-year College student, pushed back against Elliott’s statement.

“I don't know if students are going to be okay with expulsion being back on the table while drastically reducing our standard of evidence to a ponderance,” Aziz said. 

Ultimately, the Committee opted to maintain “beyond a reasonable doubt” as the standard of evidence. 

The new constitution will now move to the general school election to be voted on in early March. 

In order to ratify the constitution, three-fifths of students must vote in favor of the change,  provided that at least ten percent of the entire eligible voting population has voted in favor of such an amendment. If passed by the student body, the new constitution will go into effect July 1.

The finalized constitution comes after Committee discussion of four potential proposals which were drafted by a group of student delegates the three days prior to the first day of class during the Committee’s Constitutional Convention. The version which will go to the student body has some elements from the original proposals but was largely drafted by the Committee.

The next Honor Committee meeting will be held Sunday at 7 p.m. in the Trial Room of Newcomb Hall.

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