CC proposes Honor Code referendum

February 17, 2016 by Michael Green, Executive Editor

College Council President Marcus Christian ’16 leads a townhall discussion last Thursday in Baxter Hall. Grace Flaherty/Photo Editor.

College Council President Marcus Christian ’16 leads a townhall discussion last Thursday in Baxter Hall. Grace Flaherty/Photo Editor.

On Sunday, College Council (CC), under the leadership of Marcus Christian ’16, announced the details of a referendum and two CC constitutional amendments that students will vote on in the spring 2016 elections.

The referendum, known as “8 Plus 4,” proposes to add four rotating student members to the Honor and Discipline Committee. One of the constitutional amendments proposes to create the Vice President for Communications and Parliamentarian positions on CC, while the other proposes to make pronouns gender-neutral in CC documents.

According to the text of the 8 Plus 4 proposal, “For each hearing, four rotating members – one from each class year – shall be randomly called upon to join the eight selected student members in the hearing as voting members.” The proposal also includes a new requirement in which all students who serve on the committee sign a confidentiality agreement. Rotating members will be allowed to recuse themselves from a hearing but will then be prioritized for the next hearing.

According to Bryan Jones ’16, last year, a number of concerned students, including himself, began to develop 8 Plus 4 “as a way of increasing student engagement with the honor code as a privilege of being a student at Williams,” in response to a recent rise in honor code hearings and a general lack of familiarity among students with how the honor code worked. In 2013-2014 there were 30 hearings and in the 2012-2013 year there were 34, while the number of hearings in a year between 2003 and 2012 never reached above 21 and on average was 14.

By including additional members on the committee, 8 Plus 4’s creators hope more students will be exposed to the workings of the honor code. While these students will not be allowed to share the details of the cases they hear due to the confidentiality agreement, they will be able to share what they learn generally about the honor code with other students, who in turn may become more familiar with the honor code. With more students aware of the ideas of the honor code, the number of violations will theoretically decrease.

Over 20 percent of the student body signed a petition in support of 8 Plus 4, so it will appear on the ballot this spring.

According to the CC Constitution, referenda require one-third of students to vote and a two-thirds majority to ratify. However, the 8 Plus 4 referendum will modify the College’s Statement of Academic Honesty, so two-thirds of the student body must ratify the referendum, as well as the faculty. The Statement of Academic Honesty was last modified in 1971.

The proposed Vice President for Communications position would be “responsible for managing all of CCs’ digital and print communications and outreach.” The Parliamentarian “is responsible for managing internal functions of CC.” These two positions would replace the Vice President for Operations, who has been responsible for CC’s proposed functions. If the amendment passes, the Vice President for Operations elected in the spring elections would only serve for one term and special elections for the new positions would be held in the fall.

“We thought formally separating organizational duties – placing them onto a Parliamentarian – and communications duties – onto a new Vice President for Communications– would allow both positions to put as much energy as possible into their respective areas,” Michael Rubel ’19, interim vice president for operations, said. “Especially in the increasingly digital age, communications are crucial for outreach, transparency and visibility, and College Council wants to emphasize those values as much as possible going forward.”

The gender pronouns proposal will replace “she and he” and “his and her” with “they and theirs.”

“College Council represents all students, and it’s important that our Constitution be drafted in the most inclusive language possible,” Allegra Simon ’18, vice president for academic affairs, said.

Each of the constitutional amendments was proposed by a four-fifths majority of CC. They must be ratified by a two-thirds majority of the student body. The current CC Constitution has been in place since 2012.

Voting will take place from Feb. 25 to Feb. 27.

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