Honor council wants to increase transparency

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April 6, 2007

3:40 PM

Honor Council Chief Justice junior Judd Kennedy hopes to eradicate the image of the Honor Council as an intimidating body that meets secretly in dark chambers. He has worked to educate students about the council’s process of trying a case in an effort to make it more representative of the student body and to increase its transparency.

p. The Flat Hat will now publish details on Honor Council cases at the end of every semester, and information on last semester’s proceedings are printed today.

p. Kennedy sat down with The Flat Hat last week to discuss the Council’s goals and explain how it works.

p. He said the council serves two purposes: to act as a group of peers that tries honor violation cases against students and to provide outreach within the community to promote trust.

p. “I would hope that it allows students to trust and really want to uphold the honor code themselves,” Kennedy said. “And I hope that it allows students to know that they’re not being judged by the administration or anyone else — it’s a panel of their peers.”

p. The council is comprised of 24 students. The process begins when a member of the faculty, administration or student body submits an accusation letter. Kennedy said that the majority of these letters come from the faculty and administration.

p. The accuser must first meet with the accused student and ask for an explanation. If the explanation is not sufficient, the accuser should submit an accusation letter and tell the accused student that he or she has 24 hours to report to the Honor Council’s office in the Campus Center or send an e-mail to the council.

p. Once the council receives the accusation letter, Kennedy assigns three or four members of the council to an investigating committee that talks to all parties involved and collects evidence. The committee has access to records of the times and places where students swiped their identification cards.

p. Next, Kennedy appoints a sufficient evidence panel, consisting of three members who have never seen the case before, and they decide if the evidence collected by the investigating committee is enough to warrant a hearing.

p. “The purpose of that panel is to weed out cases that could be brought to us on hearsay,” Kennedy said. “They make sure there’s enough evidence to support the initial accusation.”

p. If the panel rules that there is enough evidence to support a hearing, Kennedy appoints six students who have never seen the case to determine guilt. The six students meet with everyone involved and follow procedures outlined in the Student Handbook.

p. Four of the six students must vote that the accused is guilty in order to issue a guilty verdict, and they base their decision on the same standard of proof used by criminal courts in the United States: guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

p. If the six students rule that the accused is not guilty, all papers relating to the case are shredded, and it never shows up on the student’s record. If at any point before a guilty verdict is issued the case against the accused ends, all papers relating to the case are shredded.

p. After a guilty verdict is issued, the case enters its last stage. Another panel of six students is appointed to decide what sanction to give the guilty student.

p. Ultimately, four members of the six must agree to a sanction.

p. All Honor Council members are sworn to confidentiality and can never discuss cases outside the council.

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