Evaluating the Honor Committee

While flipping through the “Report of the Honor Committee,” a three-page document that was waiting in our SU boxes upon our return from break, I noticed one particularly strange and potentially disturbing incident. The violation itself was not noteworthy, but the rationale for conviction was quite so: “The Committee was especially disturbed by the fact that the student had been before the Committee previously, as a witness in another case.”

The implication here is that a witness is more than a civilian while participating in an Honor Committee case; the witness has specific duties to record and process the events which take place around him or her in the “courtroom.” The witness is therefore punished for participating in the judicial process, punished with the threat of exactly this situation arising, where he or she is viewed not only as a civilian, but also as a civilian and a former witness.

Given the brief nature of the violation summaries in the Report, I cannot claim to be in an ideal position to determine whether the student was fairly or unfairly tried. But assigning responsibility to the witness is poor justice, punishing those who have done well for society. Furthermore, I have heard stories about alleged Honor Code violations where the student was severely threatened for what was often a minor, accidental mistake. These types of stories cast doubt on the entire Honor Committee system.

It is certainly not honorable to cheat, but the realm of what is dishonorable extends far beyond that small region of justice over which the Honor Committee presides. I would recommend that the Committee examine its own behavior to make sure that it is in line with those values which it attempts to impose on the student body at large.

Judd Greenstein ’01