That is the question that University students will have to answer when they vote on the Honor Committee’s “Campaign for Honor: Restore the Ideal” proposal. The measure would replace student jurors with elected Honor representatives and give students under Honor investigations the ability to plead guilty and face a one-year suspension. While this conscientious retraction may be a worthwhile reform that preserves the important pillars of the Honor System, the elimination of student jurors undermines fundamental principles.
As Associate Dean of Students Nicole Eramo, who frequently advises members of the Honor Committee, told me last year, the fundamental principle of the Honor System is not the single sanction, but its student-run nature. By revising one of the major hindrances to Honor reporting, a single penalty of expulsion, and keeping the core values of the system intact, this might very well be an appropriate and worthwhile reform.
Honor makes two arguments in support of jury reform: a jury entirely of Honor representatives will be more knowledgeable about the process and many professors are unwilling to cooperate in a system where any student can decide if a student should be expelled. The first objection is tantamount to replacing current US juries with groups of lawyers, judges, and law professors. A jury is meant to be a broad cross-section of the community, not a panel of experts. It ensures that members will be able to think about a case from different angles while a jury entirely composed of Honor representatives will be much more limited in this scope. The Honor Council must make their case in a way that the typical UVA student can understand, not a difficult task. The elimination of random student jurors will put the average student one step more distant from the process.
Honor alleges that a wave of new professors, unfamiliar with our system, will be unwilling to cooperate with it. As professors learn more about our system of self-governance, however, they grow to respect and admire it. Random student juries have become by custom and usage an important part of our Honor system and should not be compromised.
Honor is lumping both reforms into one proposal because of concerns that each on its own is inefficient and would be difficult to pass by referendum. Because of these major concerns on the second measure, students should vote no on the proposal.
By Peter A. Finocchio, Staff Writer