The Cavalier Daily
Serving the University Community Since 1890

EDITORIAL: Someone has stolen Honor’s ingenuity

The Editorial Board endorses Laura Howard for Honor Committee Representative

<p>Other than Howard, candidates demonstrated an inability to move beyond cookie-cutter solutions — if they proposed solutions at all.&nbsp;</p>

Other than Howard, candidates demonstrated an inability to move beyond cookie-cutter solutions — if they proposed solutions at all. 

For the past few years, the Honor Committee and its candidates have had a snazzy idea around which to center their initiatives and through which to mobilize the University community — multi-sanction. This was emphatically not the case this year. Rather, less than a year after the multi-sanction referendum, most Committee candidates seem to have become complacent, neglecting to adopt the necessary historicized approach to understanding the damage the Committee has perpetrated against our community. In the eyes of the Editorial Board, this complacency is unacceptable and at odds with the mandate the Committee has been given. So today, The Cavalier Daily Editorial Board endorses only one candidate running for College of Arts and Sciences Honor representative — third-year student Laura Howard. We hope that she will continue working to transform the Committee into an institution that is truly humanistic, restorative and intentional in its approach to upholding the community of trust.

Howard was endorsed by The Cavalier Daily’s previous Editorial Board for her commitment to rehabilitation and transparency. This year, recognizing that the Committee often encounters students on their worst days, she emphasized the necessity of compassion for every single individual who interacts with the Committee. She also articulated a tangible platform informed by this value. Howard proposed an addendum to sanctioning guidelines which — instead of simply being written by internal officials — will be informed by the perspectives of randomly selected students. We thoroughly applaud this idea for its understanding of the imperative to incorporate diverse student voices. Additionally, she expressed a desire to explore a data and research subcommittee to direct feedback efforts. Given the consistently underwhelming and statistically skewed responses the Committee receives, this is an innovative solution. Finally, Howard also emphasized the importance of addressing root causes of honor offenses. In the age of generative artificial intelligence, addressing these root causes instead of dealing with unpredictable fallout is vital. In short, we are confident that Howard will be an excellent representative who engages critically and creatively with the Committee and its mission. 

While Howard undoubtedly understands the historical complexities of the honor system, the Editorial Board was not convinced that any other candidate did. When asked to define what honor meant to them, many fell back upon clichés — such as the oft-employed, short-sighted backpack hypothetical — which are simplistic and ahistorical. These explanations suggested that honor can be reduced to a stagnant set of neutral rules as opposed to an evolving set of values that guide our community. This is, of course, blatantly untrue. Honor is not and has never been neutral. Rather, it has always been fundamentally intertwined with a normative framework of values based in misogynistic chivalry, racism and Southern aristocracy. Failure to do anything but thoroughly acknowledge this evolution endangers the future of honor. 

The multi-sanction system, passed last spring, was meant to be another step in this evolution, a step towards a more inclusive version of honor. However, the latitude provided by and responsibility enshrined in the multi-sanction system seems to have not fully sunk in. For example, many candidates explained that the Committee is struggling to find a balance between harsh sanctions such as suspension and more lenient sanctions such as education. The candidates astutely identified this problem but did not articulate a clear way in which they could leverage multi-sanction to remedy it. Multi-sanction has the potential to completely redefine what constitutes a sanction, and the Editorial Board believes that this potential has yet to be fully realized. 

Despite general ambivalence, we do commend a few representatives for their innovative ideas. Fourth-year College student Jonathan Swap proposed tailoring generative AI guidelines to each school in order to better accommodate diverse disciplines. Given that generative AI will only become more disquieting, the Editorial Board applauds his nuanced approach to tackling this issue. Similarly, second-year College student Mary Holland Mason talked about continuing to translate the Committee’s bylaws and instituting a system for requesting a translator. International students have historically been an overrepresented demographic in Honor case reporting statistics because of spotlighting, a phenomenon in which racial prejudices engender more reports of minority students. Mason’s proposal will not address root causes, but it will ensure that processes which are inundated with obscure jargon are more accessible to international students. While the Editorial Board commends these innovative ideas, ultimately, they were not coupled with a detailed vision for leveraging the Committee’s resources to redress its legacy of harm.

Perhaps other candidates also had well-crafted solutions to the problems they identified. After all, one of the Committee’s favorite rejoinders to criticism is that their critics have simply misunderstood the work that the Committee is doing. But what the Committee has fundamentally misunderstood is that it is not our responsibility to seek out information about the Committee’s inner workings. Rather, it is the Committee's institutional duty to effectively and consistently disseminate this information to the student body. A singular week of largely performative engagements is not sufficient, something which would not have been immediately clear from how thoroughly candidates praised Honor Week during their interviews. If we, the student body, have misunderstood Honor, that is because Honor has not done nearly enough to be adequately understood. 

Student self-governance is a privilege for which Laura Howard is thoroughly prepared to take on in a truly innovative and solution-oriented manner. Other than Howard, however, candidates demonstrated an inability to move beyond cookie-cutter solutions — if they proposed solutions at all. Moreover, they generally failed to engage critically and creatively with the radical potential of the multi-sanction system. The Editorial Board hopes that in the future we will have positive things to write about the direction of the Committee. But until then, we ask that future candidates leverage a more nuanced understanding of honor, its history and its role at the University in order to propose a radical vision for how the Committee can become a force for good within our community. 

The Cavalier Daily Editorial Board is composed of the Executive Editor, the Editor-in-Chief, the two Opinion Editors, their Senior Associates and an Opinion Columnist. The board can be reached at


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