Get ready to rumble, ladies and gents. The University elections for various school council and committee positions will be held from February 20 to February 26. During this time, students will also vote on three referenda sponsored by “The Campaign for Self-Governance” that are related to the constitution of the Honor Committee. (See the referenda here: http://www.honor2015.com/the-referenda.html.)
The first referendum “suggests a binding amendment to the Honor Committee Constitution” to “require the honor committee to convene a bi-annual popular assembly open to the general student body.” Take it or leave it — this move may be to make honor procedures more transparent or democratic, but chances are an extra meeting every two years isn’t going to make the difference.
The second referendum, again for a binding amendment, would essentially force the Honor Committee to translate popular “opinion pertaining to the Honor System” into binding constitutional amendment proposals.
The third referendum is the headliner, the one that is most controversial (as seen with this newly-formed Facebook campaign). It concerns the single sanction.
As it stands at the University now (and has stood as a veritable UVa tradition for the past 173 years), the single sanction policy means that there is only one kind of penalty for being convicted of committing a significant honor offense: permanent dismissal from the University. Multiple sanction proposals include the development of more measured, ‘nuanced’ punishments for ‘nuanced’ offenses.
Single sanction is a big deal. Its rigid absolutism is what defines and sets apart UVa Honor. It cannot be denied that expulsion, good or bad, conveys the gravity of the honor system at UVa and sends a powerful message to the public.
A ‘Yes’ vote on this third referendum could give multiple sanction supporters ammo in the form of recent popular support (the referendum is not for a binding amendment, but it would recommend formal consideration of the issue). This is significant, although it should be noted that the topic has been voted on as recently as 2009 (not in the college lifetime of most current UVa students, however) and at that time multiple sanction was rejected.
Facts about the Honor Committee as it stands:
- A suitable time after trials close, the Honor Committee posts public summaries of cases. See: http://www.virginia.edu/honor/public-summaries/. The Committee also posts meeting minutes and study reports.
- Honor Committee members are elected by the student body during the February voting period.
- Conscientious and Informed Retraction guidelines already provide options for reported honor code violators. For an understanding of CR and IR application, see: http://www.virginia.edu/honor/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/IR-flow-chart-FINAL.pdf.
- Browse the Honor website for more information on the workings of the Committee: http://www.virginia.edu/honor/. From the website: “The University of Virginia’s Honor Code is at once an injunction and an aspiration. The injunction is simple: students pledge never to lie, cheat, or steal, and accept that the consequence for breaking this pledge is permanent dismissal from the University [author’s italics].”
In the weeks leading up to the elections, know what “The Campaign for Self-Governance” stands for and consider the effects of its amendments, if approved. Publications and writers are beginning to take sides on the referenda, especially and most importantly the third referendum on single sanction (The Cavalier Daily, in case you were wondering, has come out strong in support for multiple sanction). Look for products of the growing debate in the next two weeks.
By Mary W. Hedges, Staff Writer