The College of William and Mary Undergraduate Honor Council will no longer seek funding from the Student Assembly senate. Funding for the 2011-2012 council will be provided by the College, not Student Activities funds.
In a memo presented to the SA senate Tuesday, Undergraduate Honor Council Chairman John Pothen ’11 said that he believed the Honor Council should be funded by a non-political body. Pothen had received assurances from Vice President of Student Affairs Ginger Ambler and Dean David Gilbert that future Honor Council funding will be provided by the College.
Future SA funding for the council had been contingent on the Honor Council accepting reform recommendations from a joint SA-Honor Council reform committee, which has been meeting throughout the fall semester. The SA altered its finance code last semester to prevent further funding of the Honor Council if reforms were not adopted.
“It wasn’t a conversation I could stomach — that we would accept any recommendations from the joint committee carte blanche, regardless of financial consideration,” Pothen said. “It was about the right long term decision.”
In response to Pothen’s announcement, Sen. Zach Marcus ’12 notified joint committee members that the reform discussions had been terminated.
“I feel that we don’t have the jurisdiction [over the Honor Council] anymore,” Marcus said. “I think that they want to have an Honor Council that insulates itself from public opinion.”
The joint SA-Honor Council reform committee was planning to submit its recommendations to the Honor Council and members of the Honor System Review Committee, which was appointed by College President Taylor Reveley in October.
Marcus said the decision represents a decline in leverage the SA has over the council. In the past, Honor Council financing was controlled and approved by the SA.
“Any leverage was simply perceived leverage,” Pothen said. “The thing that I took seriously from last spring was the call for more transparency. We’re not walking away from that by having stable funding.”
As of a month ago, Pothen and Honor Council CFO Eric Robinson made statements indicating that SA funding was necessary to council operations, and that there was no contingency plan in the event the SA withheld funding indefinitely.
Although the Department of Student Affairs provided funding for budget overages in the past, the SA provided the council its initial financing, Associate Dean of Students David Gilbert said.
“We made it clear that there was a contingency in place if they didn’t receive [SA] funding,” Gilbert said. “I made it clear they needn’t worry.”
In response to Marcus’s decision to dissolve the SA-Honor Council joint committee, Honor Council CFO Eric Robinson sent an e-mail to committee members saying that the council remained willing to discuss reforms with the SA — despite Pothen’s decision to not submit for SA funding.
The announcement came as a shock to several SA senators.
“We had no idea that they were going to announce on that,” Sen. Mike Young ’11 said. “I did not see that coming.”
Based on the progress made during the joint committee meetings, Sen. Curt Mills ’13 said that he had been in the process of constructing a bill that would reset the SA’s finance code, allowing for future SA funding of the Honor Council. He and Robinson discussed a possible bill at the joint committee’s Nov. 21 meeting.
“I talked to Eric and he said that it was a good idea to write the bill,” Mills said. “It’s really, really surprising then that they did that anyway.”
Robinson said he had been willing to discuss the bill further with Mills. Pothen said that although he was aware of the possibility of the SA restoring its finance code, he felt that his decision was ultimately better for the council and the honor system in the long run.
He added that the decision to refrain from submitting for SA funding was made with the input of several Honor Council members. Although the decision was made without an open council discussion, Pothen said he has only heard positive feedback from other members.