A new honor code policy will allow students who admit their violations to bypass the Honor Council hearing process. The change was approved by the executive faculty of the Honor Council on Oct. 25, and the deans approved a new trial policy that will take affect as of Monday, Nov.4.

Under the current process, when a violation of the Honor System is alleged, one of the council’s investigating officers conducts an investigation and the matter is then referred to a hearing board that determines whether the student is in violation and recommends an appropriate sanction.

With this new policy, after completing the investigation of a possible Honor System violation, the investigating officer will now be given the option of recommending to the Executive Director of the Honor Council that the accused student be given the option of admitting responsibility for a violation and accepting a specified sanction in lieu of having a hearing.

According to Faculty Chair of the Honor Council Jim Sandefur, the object of the hearings is to uncover the truth. If the student already admits to the violation, then there leaves no purpose for the hearing.

“The hearing is stressful for the student,” Sandefur said, “especially because the outcome is so uncertain.” He noted that bypassing this straining hearing process will not only provide a relief for the student, but also for the council.

According to the policy, however, this expedited sanction will only be an option for students who take full responsibility for the violation in their initial interviews with the investigating officer and understand the seriousness of his or her actions. “Our goal is to promote honesty and encourage students who have violated the Honor System to take responsibility for their actions,” Sandefur said.

A three-person Executive Board consisting of the Honor Council’s student and faculty chairs and the Executive Director will determine whether or not the student can be offered this expedited process and will determine the appropriate sanction based on precedents set in past cases.

The student will then have 24 hours to accept the offer. If the student does not accept the offer, the offer will be withdrawn. The student also has the option to rescind his or her decision up to 48 hours after the offer is made.

A student who declines an offer will then proceed through the hearing process as usual. The new policy emphasizes that for a student who declined the expedited sanction, “there shall be no adverse consequences . with regard to a later hearing.”

The student’s dean is ultimately responsible for making the final decision regarding the sanction and has the authority to raise or lower its severity. The policy also stresses that if the admitted offense is related to work for a specific course, the professor has total discretion concerning the student’s grade in the course.

Sandefur is very enthusiastic about this new policy, “It doesn’t take away any of the student’s original rights but it does give them another option.”

The council hopes that the new policy will encourage students to be honest and take responsibility from the beginning. “We want to make sure this policy is well known, since it is important that students admit their wrongdoing from the beginning of the process,” Sandefur said.

“My expectations for the new process are that we will be able to administer the system fairly and, hopefully, often adjudicate cases in a more timely way,” Assistant for Academic Affairs in the Office of the Provost Sonia Jacobson said. “I would be the first to admit that some cases have gotten unnecessarily prolonged what with summer and other mid-term breaks intervening [and] difficulty in getting a hearing board together at such times.”

Jacobson warned that despite the recommendations of the new Executive Board and the expedited process, “one must bear in mind that the student’s dean will make the final decision about a sanction.”

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