Negating months of talks in one fell swoop, the Honor Council has recently announced its decision to reject Student Assembly financing, in favor of funds provided directly by the College of William and Mary. Student senators say the decision came as a surprise, but, for anyone following the SA-Honor Council disputes over the course of the past year, the tenor can’t help but sound similar — one of petty disagreement barely removed from outright bickering.
We are somewhat relieved, therefore, to see interaction between the two organizations reduced to a minimum, like petulant children sent to their respective rooms. However, it is also unfortunate that, through the squabbling of the SA and the Honor Council, students have lost their only avenue for oversight of the operation and implementation of their own Honor Code.
From the start, discussion of reform started off on the wrong foot. An initiative gained ground within the SA — motivated more by the personal politics of a few senators than by any general student outcry — calling for the Honor Council to reform its allegedly inequitable operations. Harshly worded, and obviously leading, referenda were traded back and forth, alleging a lack of confidence in one and calling for the abolition of the other. Eventually, in April of this year, the SA passed a bill revoking next year’s funding of the Honor Council until substantial reforms were introduced, leaving what specific reforms were worthy of renewed funding entirely to the SA’s discretion.
For its part, the Honor Council dove into the mud just as quickly. Honor Council members initially seemed intent on complying with the reform process, with liaison to the SA Eric Robinson ’11 saying only one month ago, “We want SA funding; we want to work with the SA.” Now, Honor Council Chair John Pothen ’11 has announced — with little to no forewarning, least of all to the members of the joint reform committee — that the council has found an alternative source of funding. Essentially, this means that the council is now completely removed from any pressure from the student body.
The choice to resolve the admittedly tiring conflict in this manner points to a nearly-irresolvable conflict: We adamantly believe that students ought to have a say in the operation of their Honor Council, but, at the same time, in no way should oversight operate on such a petty level.
The Honor Council was established as separate from the administration of Code of Conduct violations based on the principle that students should have the ability to decide the manner in which Honor Code infractions are punished. This control includes the ability to reform the honor process if it seems to function ineffectively or inequitably.
Although the Honor Council is an elected body, its members are unable to campaign on any platform, meaning students are unable to use their votes effectively. In essence, the control of Honor Council funds remained students’s only direct mechanism to affect the Honor system.
But, given the abuse of oversight we’ve seen, and the trivial infighting it has produced, it also seems obvious that student representatives can’t be trusted with that responsibility. Unfortunately for students they have, through no fault of their own, lost an important facet of their own self-determination.
Certainly, once that funding is placed in the hands of the administration, there is no reason for students to expect it back, at least not anytime soon. One can only hope —however naive it may be — that once the College deems the student body worthy to govern itself again, that oversight will be restored. We look forward to the day our elected student representatives — SA and Honor Council members alike — can be trusted to cooperate. Until then, we just hope they grow up.