Students surveyed on Honor Council
February 24, 2011
For the first time since 1997, the nation’s oldest collegiate honor system is under review and evaluation.
The Honor Council Review Committee, formed by College President Taylor Reveley at the beginning of the academic year, consists of current students, faculty members and administrators. It aims to finish the review of the system by the end of the academic year.
“We are making a thorough and balanced assessment of the system we now have and examining whether we as a community have preserved honesty and integrity at the right cost,” government professor Clay Clemens ’80, chair of the Honor Council Review Committee, said.
In order to get an accurate depiction of how the community views the current Honor System, a survey was sent out to all students.
“We are trying to solicit as much input as we could from as many parts of the campus community as we can,” Clemens said.
After an initial informal examination, the main recurring concern with the system was that it was too time consuming and complicated for all parties involved.
After reporting an honor offense, it can take several weeks until the case is closed. Each case requires a time commitment from at least 12 Honor Council members, material witnesses, professors and the accused.
Because of this enormous time commitment, many professors opt to handle each potential offense on their own.
“I think we’re probably only seeing 10 percent of all offenses, and 90 percent are dealt with by professors,” Chief Justice of the Honor Council John Pothen ’11 said.
Another reason professors shy away from involving the Honor Council in cases of lying, cheating or stealing in their classrooms is that the starting sanction for such an offense is suspension. Professors often feel they can handle the cases better on their own because they understand the situation better than an Honor Council panel would.
“It’s the one aspect of the College where professors have no control,” Pothen said.
While the review committee has not determined whether or not they will change the suspension sanction, Pothen did admit the issue is up for discussion.
Other parts of the system Pothen said the Council hopes to review include the way in which the accused and material witnesses are treated and the transparency of the process to the community.
“It’s not meant to be a punitive process,” Pothen said. “If someone has directly harmed the community through lying, cheating or stealing, the process is meant to repair that relationship.”