The College of William and Mary Undergraduate Honor Council announced the creation of a task force March 23 aimed at reevaluating the election of Honor Council members.
“At this point, the entire process is going to be reevaluated,” Undergraduate Honor Council Chair Justice John Pothen ’11 said. “Questions are going to be asked about every step of the process.”
The Honor Council Election Reform Task Force is made up of eight members — Skyler Halbritter ’11, Andy Rudd ’11, Stefanie Felitto ’12, Asha Williams ’12, economics professor Jennifer Mellor, English professor Brett Wilson, Dean Dave Gilbert and Internal Audit Director Michael Stump. The committee contains two members each from the Honor Council, the general student body, faculty and campus administration.
Honor Council members are currently elected in the spring through an online student ballot. Each student is able to vote for up to eight members of the rising sophomore, junior and senior classes. Students are prohibited from campaigning for the Honor Council. The task force will consider alternatives to the ban.
“I think it is fair to say that no one believes the process works exactly the way we might want it to,” Pothen said. “We hope to elect individuals based on their character and whether they are suitable to do the job. While the people I’ve worked with on council during my terms have been excellent, I think there are serious, legitimate doubts about whether the current process is the best way to do that.”
The task force will also evaluate changing the ballot. Currently, students base their vote on each candidate’s 200-word response to a question.
Rudd said that the task force would discuss issues concerning the possibility for campaign and ballot changes, though that is not its sole responsibility.
“Those ideas have been mentioned, but certainly are not the explicit purpose of the task force,” Rudd said. “We hope to analyze things that have worked in the council’s elections process, and more importantly, identify areas for improvement.”
While this year’s voter turnout decreased from last year, Rudd said the issue is not a cause for concern.
“The task force was not formed in response to low voter turnout,” Rudd said. “Last year’s
turnout was abnormally high, which is largely attributed to the referendum that ran concurrent to our election last year. When looking at last year as an outlier, turnout has actually continued on an upward trend.”
The Honor Council hopes to receive input from the student body on the comments section of its website, and will also distribute a limited, random survey to the student body. The task force will provide a final report of recommendations to the Honor Council at an undeclared date.