The single sanction’s razor-thin survival of a student vote has prompted the Honor Committee to appoint a study commission, the first such comprehensive review of the University of Virginia Honor System since 2000.
The 13-member Honor Audit Commission, composed of students, faculty, administrators and alumni, begins work this fall on an endeavor expected to last through the spring of 2018.
Its creation follows a February student referendum in which 59 percent of voters favored giving the Honor Committee the power to develop less severe penalties for Honor offenses than the system’s longstanding sole option of permanent expulsion, the single sanction. Another 85 yea votes would have tipped the proposition to the 60 percent supermajority needed to make such a constitutional change to the Honor Code. The close vote was the subject of Virginia Magazine’s Summer 2016 cover story, “Modern Honor” (see also Letters, fall 2016).
The Honor Committee had planned on appointing a commission to look at alternative sanctions had the measure passed. That it came so close to passing inclined the student leaders to go ahead with a commission anyway, recognizing an opportunity to undertake a review of all aspects of the Honor System, not just its sentencing options.
“We want to keep our charge to the commission relatively broad,” says Honor Committee Chairman Matt West (Col ’17), who announced the commission appointments over the summer.
Alumni have broad representation on the audit panel. Michael Lenox (Engr ’93, ’94), a Darden School of Business professor and associate dean, and Jimmy Fang (Engr ’95), a Williamsburg, Virginia, executive, each a former Honor chairman, fill the two designated alumni seats. In addition, both faculty representatives, both administration representatives and both Board of Visitors representatives have UVA degrees, either undergraduate or graduate. Indeed, the only nonalumni members of the commission are its five current students.
Funding for the effort will come in part from the UVA Honor Endowment, which the Alumni Association started in 1998 and continues to manage with the goal of perpetuating a student-run Honor System and advancing its ideals.