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Apprehensions towards Honor system brought forth in Honor Town Hall

The community event aimed to field and answer student questions and concerns about the impending multi-sanction system

Students also had an interest in how Honor would respond to generative Artificial Intelligence that raises new questions for academic integrity.
Students also had an interest in how Honor would respond to generative Artificial Intelligence that raises new questions for academic integrity.

The Honor Committee held a town hall Monday in Newcomb Hall Theater to hear student input about the newly passed multi-sanction system. Committee members and students engaged in conversation across a wide variety of topics, including an often negative student perception of the Honor system, approaches to generative AI and the Committee’s efficiency. 

The multi-sanction system, which will be formally implemented on July 1, transforms the former single sanction system to include multiple sanctions — including a two semester leave of absence, expulsion, education and amends. 

Four Committee members led the town hall, including Hamza Aziz, chair of the Committee and third-year College student, Carson Breus, vice chair for sanctions and second-year Commerce student, Laura Howard, vice chair for hearings and second-year College student and third-year College student Rep. Jonathan Swap. Roughly 20 students attended the town hall.

Themes of student disconnect with the Honor system permeated the conversation. One student said that Honor, though present in the classroom, is often an afterthought at the University. 

“I feel like when Honor is mentioned, it's very much a last minute reminder,” the student said. “And not like [professors] are going to implement it.” 

Historically, professors who have caught students cheating may or may not opt to report them to the Honor Committee — some professors, for example, chose to handle the offense on their own because of the lengthy process. Investigations can continue for months as students are interviewed, re-interviewed and tried. 

Other students said they viewed the Honor system and Committee as a punishing body,  especially given the previous sanction of expulsion.

From 1842 up to the passage of the multi-sanction system, the Honor Committee had a single-sanction system. This meant that every student found guilty of an Honor offense would be expelled from the University. However, this was changed in the 2022 referendum that reduced the single sanction of expulsion to a single sanction of a two-semester leave of absence. 

Different sanctions can often disproportionately affect different students depending on their specific circumstances, according to Swap. For a privileged student, a two-semester suspension could still mean a continuation of internships and outside development. On the other hand, for an international student, suspension could mean revocation of their visa or being deported from the country. Swap said that the multi-sanction system is a way to account for these disparities.

Swap stated how considering these circumstances and making the Honor system more equitable has been important to the Committee. 

“Students are going to be disproportionately burdened through our sanctions,” Swap said. “And protecting [affected students] is a very, very top priority of ours.” 

By offering more rehabilitative outcomes, the multi-sanction system will provide students a chance to uphold Honor and recommit themselves to the Community of Trust, according to Swap.

“That's a main goal for me is that this multi-sanction system will offer second chances, will offer students opportunities to grow,” Swap said. “And also will allow faculty to have that closure.”

During the town hall, students also had an interest in how Honor would respond to future developments in advanced technology such as generative artificial intelligence that raises new questions for academic integrity. 

ChatGPT, released in November of 2022, has quickly become one of the most popular AI platforms. The platform has been used heavily in academia, doing everything from basic math problems to writing full length academic papers. 

As a result of the increase in usage of generative AI in academic environments, the University and Honor recently convened the Generative AI in Teaching and Learning Task Force to hear student and faculty input about the role of AI in higher education. 

Aziz said the conversation on generative AI should be focused more on how to work alongside it rather than combat it.

“There are many circumstances where it can be helpful,” Aziz said. “It’s more so how we navigate the changing academic environment and how faculty engage with [generative AI].”

After discussing AI, students also questioned and compared Honor’s role to that of other organizations such as the University Judiciary Committee — a student-run organization that is authorized to investigate and adjudicate alleged violations of the University’s 12 Standards of Conduct. 

UJC has a very similar process to that of the Honor System, in which students are found guilty by a panel of judges or representatives, usually made up of their student peers. After the July 1 ratification of multi-sanction for Honor, both groups will levy various punishments to those found guilty, ranging from suspension to amends. 

The Honor Committee sanctions students who violate the Honor Code that students should not lie, cheat or steal. UJC, on the other hand, sanctions students for violations of the Standard of Conduct — 12 regulations of behavior ranging from prohibiting physical assault to failure to follow national, state or local laws. 

Thomas Davies, UJC counselor and first-year College student, posed the question of combining the two bodies, citing their similarities in function as well as commitment to student self-governance. 

“So given that both are moving to a multi-sanction system and both are moving to a very similar trial process, why do we need to keep the two systems separate?” Davies said. 

Aziz responded by saying each organization serves a unique purpose at the University. 

“UJC is more like a conduct based on respect and safety of ourselves and our peers,” Aziz said. “Honor is attempting to be a value space…we have this intrinsic value and honor that lying, cheating and stealing are in conflict with.”

Attendees then moved into small groups to discuss the multi-sanction system with their school representatives. In these groups students gave more feedback to representatives about the multi-sanction system and Honor. 

The multi-sanction system will be formally ratified on July 1. Between the end of the semester and the ratification date, the Committee will be working to develop and pass bylaws that reflect the nuances of their new system. 

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