Honor Code referendum fails in vote

A referendum that would have significantly revised the College of William and Mary’s Honor Code was struck down by a campus-wide vote Wednesday over the Student Information Network.

The revisions, as detailed in a letter addressed to the student body from the Council of Chairs, were designed to better define the nature of Honor Code violations and allow for easier navigation of the Code’s bylaws.

“The idea was to make it so there would be more procedural flexibility,” Honor Council Chairman Matt Dinan ’09 said.

The final vote, as compiled from SIN, was 231 for the referendum and 270 against it.
Had the referendum passed, it would have been the first time in over 10 years that the Honor Code has been amended.

The referendum faced stiff opposition from two Student Assembly senate members, Class Treasurer Cliff Dunn ’09 and Sen. Steven Nelson ’10.

“[Tuesday] night, me and a few other senators realized that there was an Honor Council referendum being voted on,” Nelson said.

According to Nelson, he and Dunn became concerned that few students were aware of the referendum, and began an e-mail, phone and text drive to urge students to vote down the referendum before the polls closed at 2 a.m.

By Dunn’s estimate, he and Nelson’s efforts were responsible for generating upwards of 100 votes rejecting the referendum.

“I didn’t talk to a single person who knew the referendum was coming up,” Dunn said.

The Honor Council had, in fact, placed information regarding the referendum on the College’s website, and both SA President Valerie Hopkins ’09 and Vice President of Student Affairs Virginia Ambler ’88 ph.D ’06 sent campus-wide e-mails publicizing the proposed changes.

A town hall event on the referendum also took place. Despite publicity efforts by members of the council, the event was poorly attended, according to Dinan.

Dinan had also e-mailed The Flat Hat a copy of the letter detailing the referendum. Due to a miscommunication, the newspaper did not run an article on the subject.

“In retrospect, we should have done more,” Dinan said. “What we could’ve done, I don’t know.”
Dunn said that he and Nelson were concerned not only with the lack of awareness on the referendum but also the referendum’s contents, which he felt may have given the council the ability to amend its bylaws without referendum.

“Some people were calling it the William and Mary Patriot Act,” Nelson said.
According to Dinan, the referendum would have allowed the Council of Chairs to make amendments to the code’s procedural clauses — i.e., how hearings are conducted and the process by which honor council referrals are dealt — but only with the approval of the College’s administration and the Attorney General’s Office for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Any amendments to the code’s definition clauses — i.e., lying, cheating and stealing — would require a referendum on which students would vote.


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