Ronald Fisher


FISHER: Unclear standards

The point here is that the University could set up a system which applies a higher evidentiary burden and imposes harsher punishments on sexual offenders. That is to say, it is not clear that such a system is illegal, and there are good reasons to believe that a court might actually uphold it. But by doing so, the University might have to fight the Department of Education in court; and if the University won, it would probably mean that the Sexual Misconduct Board and its analogues at universities across the country would have to apply a higher evidentiary standard than a preponderance of the evidence.

FISHER: A place for argument

However, as a member of the Jefferson Society, I can and do take issue with Mr. Knaysi’s characterization of the Society, specifically, his assertion that it has “institutionalized” a “tendency to elevate ego over informed argument.” In support of this charge, Mr. Knaysi cites approximately twelve (we are not provided an exact number) anonymous current members, most of whom feel that there is “less respectful, substantive dialogue” than occurred in the past.

Constitutions trump bylaws

Unfortunately, the Honor Committee has apparently determined that it need not comply with its own governing constitution in framing the bylaws governing informed retraction. Honor Bylaw III(3), as of March 3, 2013, states that “[t]he Vice Chairs [for Investigations and Trials] may accept or reject any IR submission,” and further provides that “[t]he decision of the Vice Chairs is final.” This language clearly contradicts the plain meaning of the Bellamy Amendment — language which, it bears repeating, is now enshrined in the Honor Committee’s constitution. Constitutions trump bylaws.

The moral of the story

After a contentious campaign season that culminated in one of the highest turnouts in recent memory, the student body of the University of Virginia has approved the most significant reforms to honor in several decades — albeit not the reforms the Honor Committee originally hoped would pass.

Two steps back

I WRITE to urge my fellow members of the academic community to reject the recently proposed changes to our Honor System.