Hamza Aziz, chair of the Honor Committee and third-year College student, stepped into his position following of one of Honor’s most fundamental changes. Following the month of his term, Aziz is hoping to maintain the Committee’s momentum by finalizing the multi-sanction system and rebuilding Honor as a positive force at the University.
This past March, University students voted to change the Honor system to a multi-sanction model, the first of its kind since Honor’s inception in 1842. While under the single-sanction system, expulsion was the only sanction for students found guilty of offenses, the new multi-sanction system will allow for a range of new sanctions catered to each offense — including but not limited to a temporary leave of absence, expulsion, education or amends.
According to Aziz, the chance to serve at a pivotal moment for the Committee is both a weighty responsibility and a great privilege.
“I'm incredibly lucky to be sitting at a turning point for Honor, where this multi-sanction referendum that I helped work on I now get to execute and implement,” Aziz said. “I feel really, really grateful to be a part of this defining moment in Honor’s history, and I think the legacy [I want to have] is just putting restoration at the forefront of Honors work.”
Aziz — succeeding fourth-year College student Gabrielle Bray — has been a member of the Committee since he entered the University, initially serving as a support officer before transitioning to College representative and vice chair of investigations. During his time on the Committee, Aziz directly participated in formalization of multi-sanction. Now Azis will directly oversee the official implementation July 1.
Within the first few months of his term, Aziz has focused on finalizing the bylaws and procedures necessary to support the multi-sanction system. The final bylaws are due July 1, which meant Aziz and his new cabinet have had to hit the ground running. During the first few weeks of his term, Aziz and the Committee drafted proposals for community-service sanctions, SIS holds for noncompliance and a possible academic course for students found guilty of honor offenses. The Committee also held a town hall May 1 to let students air their concerns and rebuild common understanding.
While the transition to multi-sanction may seem sudden to those unfamiliar with the Committee, Aziz said that reforming single-sanction has been decades in the making. The 1971 Coke Case — in which a student was expelled for stealing Coca-Cola cans from a vending machine — eventually sparked debates that would lead to students forming a “Hoos against Single Sanction” campaign in 2005. According to Aziz, his committee is not drafting multi-sanction from the ground up, but rather taking the actions necessary to set the new system in motion.
“I really like describing the multi-sanction referendum as an evolution of the community of trust, and honestly an evolution that I think happened years and years ago that we're now finally reflecting via our constitution,” Aziz said.
Because Committee members now have to cater sanctions for each individual case, Aziz said that the multi-sanction system demands a higher level of care and integrity than ever before. Under the new model, instead of only assigning expulsion or a leave of absence as a sanction, sanctions will be determined by a panel of five Honor representatives based on the severity of the offense and the individual circumstances of the student.
“With a multi-sanction system that requires more time of representatives, we have an opportunity to think critically about how we, as representatives, can demonstrate the highest level of commitment and accountability not only to the system we administer but, more importantly, to the students we represent,” Aziz said.
According to Aziz, the implementation of the multi-sanction system is a necessary step towards his larger goal of re-establishing student trust in the Committee. Many students have criticized Honor in response to reports concerning the overrepresentation of minority and international students in reported Honor violations. Between 2012 and 2017, Asian and Asian American students received approximately 27 percent of reported honor violations, despite comprising only 12 percent of the University population at the time.
Black students were also over represented, receiving nine percent of reports despite only representing six percent of the University population during the reported period. Professors have also been increasingly skeptical of the Committee, with fewer professors reporting cases and instead handling alleged violations themselves — a change Aziz said he worries will result in unfair sanctions due to power imbalances and a lack of due process.
Aziz hopes that the flexibility and restorative nature of the new multi-sanction system will help the Committee reduce its negative impact on international and minority students by accounting for individual circumstances in assigning sanctions rather than defaulting to expulsion or leaves of absence.
“In the [new] constitution, once a guilty verdict is found there are required considerations that the panel for sanction must consider, and one of those considerations is considering mitigating circumstance” Aziz said. “I think that will lead to a more equitable and fair system for all students.”
In hopes of rebuilding student trust in the Committee, Aziz also seeks to establish stronger channels of accountability for both attendance issues and ethical violations. During the Committee’s two previous terms, the Committee has struggled with meeting quorum.
To ensure the Committee keeps up with its obligations, the Committee revised its bylaws last April to count virtual attendees towards quorum, which Aziz hopes will allow for more legislation to be heard during his term. The Committee also revised its constitution to explicitly mention the Committee’s code of ethics, which Aziz thinks will help center the integrity expected of all Honor members.
While he thinks Honor has a long way to go before it can fully realize its stated mission, Aziz hopes his legacy will mark a turning point in how Honor can both embody and serve the University’s community of trust.
“An institution like Honor, which has existed since 1842, must consistently grapple with questions regardings it past and how it can best reflect the demands of students today,” Aziz said. “I hope this term serves as another step in the process of regaining trust and demonstrating to our peers that we hold ourselves accountable to them.”