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New Honor Committee term begins with consideration of subcommittee initiatives

Newly elected representatives and executive members met for the first time Sunday

<p>Howard spoke on the objectives of the other recently established subcommittee, the Research and Data Committee.&nbsp;</p>

Howard spoke on the objectives of the other recently established subcommittee, the Research and Data Committee. 

Laura Howard, newly elected Honor Committee chair and third-year College student, led the Committee through their first public meeting of the term Sunday. The meeting began with a welcome and introduction for new representatives and executive committee members, and shifted into a discussion regarding possible improvements for the Committee’s standing subcommittees — two of which are new additions this term. 

Howard first introduced the Committee’s new members, including both the Committee's representatives and the newly appointed executive committee. The Committee representatives were elected during University-wide spring 2024 elections, and the new executive committee members were later elected by the Committee at their annual retreat at Graves Mountain Lodge. The Committee began its new term April 1. 

As one change for the upcoming term, Howard introduced two new subcommittees — the Data and Research Committee, tasked with enhancing Honor’s data analysis to improve aspects such as case-processing fairness and efficiency, as well as an ad hoc Committee on Sanctions, which will convene to devise different sanctioning options for the multi-sanction system.

Will Hancock, vice chair for the undergraduate community and second-year College student, said that the subcommittee on sanctions will play an important role in the new term, given the recent implementation of the multi-sanction system. In July 2023, the Committee shifted to a multi-sanction constitution — now offering accused students sanctions that extend beyond a  two-semester leave of absence. The Committee now offers flexibility in sanctioning, using rehabilitative sanctions like educational seminars and written reflections. 

Hancock said that the subcommittee on sanctions offers a valuable space for examining the current sanctions the Committee is using. Reflecting on the previous term, Hancock said that there is a discrepancy in the severity of sanctions that merits more discussion on how they can be fairly implemented, as some sanctions, such as a leave of absence, are far more impactful than an educational seminar, for example. 

“We have this gap in severity between the restorative ethics seminar and suspension, that is something we've talked about,” Hancock said. “[We will] look through how we [can] really be creative with those other sanctions and having a dedicated kind of space to talk through that.”

Howard spoke on the objectives of the other recently established subcommittee, the Research and Data Committee. The subcommittee will conduct research studies and organize focus groups aimed at bridging connections between the Committee and communities on Grounds. While previously, the Committee relied primarily on University-wide surveys to assess the fairness and efficiency of Honor’s case-processing procedures, this term, Howard plans on utilizing more representative research methods and studies. 

“[The Research and Data Committee] will serve as a way for us to evaluate the current way we’re doing our case process and what we're investing in,” Howard said. “Much like the ad hoc subcommittee on sanctions, it will present a report to the Committee once it's conducted enough research that is able to draw conclusions.”

Howard also introduced the other unchanged subcommittees that will supplement the work of the Committee for the rest of the term. Among those subcommittee's remaining unchanged are the Community Relations and Diversity Advisory Committee, the Faculty Advisory Committee and the Policies and Procedures Committee. 

The Community Relations and Diversity Advisory Committee advises the Committee on its practices pertaining to diversity. The Faculty Advisory Committee is a subcommittee designed to bridge communication with University faculty and to improve the Committee’s function and process through faculty input. The Policies and Procedures Committee exists to thoroughly assess the Committee’s bylaws and recommend changes when necessary — policies can change through feedback from the community or findings regarding bylaw inefficiencies. 

The Committee’s current term also has a new vice chair position. In February, the Committee transformed the role of the vice chair for the treasury into the vice chair for operations. This change placed co-sponsorships — funds the Committee provides to the University’s Contracted Independent Organizations to strengthen ties with the student body — under the vice chair for operations’ purview. The changes to the vice chair position took effect April 1 with the start of the new term. 

Thomas Ackleson, the inaugural vice chair for operations and second-year Engineering student, noted that since the term started, he has approved nearly $8,000 in co-sponsorships — amounting to around a third of the last term’s co-sponsorship budget.

The Committee also discussed potential improvements for the upcoming term, particularly in relation to enhancing efficacy of its various subcommittees. Seamus Oliver, vice chair for investigations and second-year College student, emphasized that for both the Community Relations and Diversity Advisory Committee and the Faculty Advisory Committee, outreach to various communities — including historically underrepresented groups and University faculty — should be initiated by the Committee.

“Rather than expecting those outside the Honor bubble to come to us, [we should] make a very concerted effort to go to them,” Oliver said. “I think that should be a way in which we’re spending our time, trying to go where the people are, rather than expecting them to wander off to the fourth floor of Newcomb [Hall].” 

Howard will conduct interviews with Honor members this week to appoint chairs and members to each subcommittee. The Committee adjourned at 7:30 p.m and is scheduled to meet next Sunday at 7 p.m.


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