Honor Reports on Transformation Success

A News Article by Eric Jensen

Honor Committee Vice-Chair for Investigations, Linda Liu, reported to the committee Sunday night on the results of the “Transformation Proposal” enacted on December 6th, 2006. The proposal established a 16 day time-line for investigations and created opportunities for the investigated student and reporter to participate in “response interviews” after the collection of evidence. It was intended to streamline the investigations process and make the system generally less onerous for all parties involved.

To that end, Linda Liu reported that the average length of investigations has fallen, from 50.68 days in the five years prior to enactment of the proposal, to 32.57 days. Investigations begun after January 17th, 2007 have been even shorter, lasting an average of only 24.89 days. Linda hopes that in future reports, the average length of investigations will move ever closer to the target time limit of 16 days.

University medical student and Committee member Alexander Hawkins added, “I think this is fantastic. I don’t think Honor has typically done enough of going back to look at changes we’ve made to find hard data that says whether or not the changes have done what we want them to. This is the sort of thing we need to keep doing, going forward.” Vice Chair for Community Relations, Josh Hess said, “Given the significance of the change we made last year, I think this is all really reassuring.” The committee agreed that the statistical study should be continued, and the changes re-evaluated again in the Spring.

The Committee also began to evaluate two new proposals to amend the by-laws with regard to evidentiary motions at pre-trial hearings. There was general agreement on a proposal to add a definition of “unfair prejudice” to the Committee by-laws in order to clear up language that is thought to be slightly ambiguous and overly legalistic. Chairman Ben Cooper suggested that he would submit the proposal to the University Office of General Counsel for their input.

There was no such agreement, however, on a proposal to amend the by-laws to reflect a “presumption in favor of the inclusion of evidence” with regard to close decisions on pre-trial evidentiary motions. Peter Teigland, representative for the Graduate School for Arts and Sciences declared, “I don’t like it. I think we should rule in favor of the accused student when we are in doubt.” Alexander Hawkins gave voice to a counter-argument that had come up in the Procedures Ad-Hoc Committee, for which he is co-chair, saying, “The thinking wasn’t about whether a tie shouldn’t go to an accused student, it was that a tie should go to the pursuit of the truth.” Discussion was tabled for the evening, and Ben Cooper again offered to submit the proposal to the Office of General Counsel for legal feedback.

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