Changes proposed to Honor Code

A panel presented TED-talk style speeches on of free speech in the media followed by a discussion. FILE PHOTO / THE FLAT HAT

Two years ago, Noah Kim ’13 and Zann Isacson ’13 served as Student Assembly representative to the Honor System Review Committee. After transitioning out of the SA last year, the pair continued to work with the HSRC as the proposed changes were finalized and submitted to College of William and Mary President Taylor Reveley. Reveley announced the proposed changes and asked for student feedback Friday in an email to the College community.

Two weeks ago, HSRC Chair and Chancellor Professor of Government Clay Clemens ’80 outlined the three major changes proposed by the HSRC in a discussion with the Honor Council, the Student Conduct Council and the Conduct and Honor Advisory Program.  The three major aspects of the proposal are the addition of an early resolution option for honor system infractions, the standardization of sanction levels and the creation of a standing Honor System Advisory Committee.

Of these three major changes, Kim and Isacson believe the proposed early resolution, or expedited option, for undergraduate students will affect students the most.

“[With the early resolution option], a student is able to resolve an issue directly with his or her professor,” Isacson said. “There is not a lot of buy-in by faculty to the [Honor] System, and the idea is that it will be adjudicated more fairly. If one professor, for example, always sends the student to the Honor Council and another doesn’t, that’s different standards across the board.”

In an email, Reveley agreed that faculty support is an issue with the current Honor System. Kim explained some of the hesitation of College faculty to work with the system.

“I think a lot of the hesitation on the part of faculty stems from the fact that they feel like they’re ceding autonomy by allowing the Honor System to step in, or they don’t want to subject a student to that entire process when they feel like they can just give a student a zero on that exam that they cheated on,” Kim said. “And so, we want to allow for that while still having it as part of the system.”

The pair discussed some of the causes for the creation of the HSRC in 2010, citing the fact the Class of 2013 is the last undergraduate class who was present on campus at this time.

“What we saw in the spring of 2010 was a lot of coverage of the honor system that I think raised questions on campus, and I think generally caused a lot of students’ attentions to be directed towards scrutinizing the honor system in a way that hadn’t happened for at least several years — in a way that actually engaged students generally,” Kim said. “I think part of [the reason the HSRC was created] was [that] the Honor Code is supposed to be reviewed every fifteen years, and so part of it was ‘Well, now that student interest is there, this is an opportunity to review it in a way in which students will actually be engaged and interested in this review because they have those controversies fresh in their minds.’”

The HSRC was comprised of various administrators, faculty and students on campus, including the chairs of the various Honor Councils on campus, Associate Dean of Students Dave Gilbert, Director of the Office of  Internal Audits Michael Stump and Dean of Students Patricia Volp. Kim and Isaacson commended the number of student voices and opinions heard in the HSRC meetings as the comprehensive review of the Honor Code took place.

“At many places, this would have been a closed-door administrative decision in which the deans of their respective departments would sit down, run through it, make their comments and suggestions, and then it would have been implemented,” Isaacson said. “But this took two and a half years to make because there were so many different opinions in the room.”

Kim emphasized that the number of voices heard about these proposed changes and the feedback received through the online submission process will continue this positive practice.

“The Honor Code does not belong to just the administration; it belongs to all of us,” Kim said. “We’ve written it; we’re continuing to write it with this next step in the process. It’s not the fact that students are just affected by it, we actually have a significant role in defining it. And I think that’s the most important thing to take away. First and foremost the Honor System — any true honor system — can only operate when you have community engagement and community involvement … from the entire community.”

Following Clemens’ discussion of the HSRC’s proposed changes two weeks ago, Reveley asked for feedback through anonymous online submissions in his campus-wide email.

“All students and faculty members will have an opportunity to send me their thoughts, anonymously,” Reveley said in an email. “They will all be taken into account very seriously, and I’m confident some of them will be telling.”

Information about the HSRC proposals can be found at The deadline for sending thoughts on the changes is May 6. Students may submit changes at, faculty at, and staff at


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