Category Archives: Honor code

Jewish Parents Decry Double Standards at UVA

by James A. Bacon

A half year after Hamas terrorists assaulted Israel, hostility at the University of Virginia toward Israel and Jews is unrelenting, according to parents of Jewish students there. In collaboration with other parents, Julie Pearl complained in a letter Tuesday to Rector Robert Hardie that a “blatant double standard against Jewish students persists at UVA.”

Pearl’s letter was prompted in part by the administration’s response to a recent incident in which a truck with digital billboards rolled through the University displaying messages critical of Hardie. One screen said, “Rector Robert Hardie won’t confront antisemitism” while another said Hardie is “unfit to lead U.Va.” The administration’s reaction was to criticize the slogans and investigate who was behind the stunt, Pearl said.

“How does the billboard incident directed at you merit outrage, an immediate statement of condemnation, and investigative action … while the ongoing harassment and intimidation faced by Jewish students receive no such response?” she asked. Continue reading

How Widespread is Cheating at UVA?

Honor Code

by James A. Bacon

Thirteen days ago, a University of Virginia student with the unlikely screen name of Worldly-Anteater3429 posed a question on the UVA channel of Reddit, a social-media discussion site. “What would happen, “he (or she) asked, “if someone tried to take a paper test outside the room?”

In a class of 100 or more, Worldly Anteater said, it would be easy to do. Worldly Anteater insisted he would never do such a thing but wondered whether cheaters would get away with it or, if caught, how they might get caught.

There ensued an exchange in the discussion thread that should be alarming to anyone intent upon preserving the Honor Code.

A student going by the name of Cthecookie said that based on his experience “almost half of the people I knew” collaborated in some way on the chemistry exams. “All it takes is one phone call to collaborate with your buddy on the exam while absolutely nobody is proctoring you.” (No one considered cheating in Genetics, he added. He offered no explanation of why that might be.) Continue reading

In Support of the Honor System

The Jefferson Council lauds Rector Thomas Hardie, President Jim Ryan, and Honor Chair Hamza Aziz for their ringing endorsement of the Honor Code in the letter below.

Dear members of the University community:

In light of recent reforms and as the academic year begins, we collectively write to ask for your help in upholding and supporting the Honor Code and the Honor System.

The University of Virginia Honor System is one of the most significant and enduring aspects of a UVA education. At its best, the Honor System fosters a culture and a community and is internalized as a way of life. The Honor System is more than sanctions or a system of punishment for infractions. It is a shared value and commitment; it is fundamental to our ethos. It is an indelible characteristic of a Virginia graduate, and it sets our graduates apart from many others. And the Honor Code itself is an especially important part of this preparation: don’t lie, cheat, or steal. These values are the foundation of our community of trust, and this is why, each year at Convocation, incoming students sign the Honor Pledge. Continue reading

JTC Honor Committee Update

In a recent article The Daily Progress, Charlottesville’s daily newspaper, highlighted the continuing debate over the University of Virginia honor code. We thank reporter Faith Redd for reaching out to The Jefferson Council for an interview — which is not exactly standard practice (but should be!) for other Virginia media regarding governance issues at UVa.

I was delighted to be quoted at some length in the article, but I would draw readers’ attention to the activities of the Jefferson Council Honor Committee, whose members, including past UVa Honor Commitee members, are far better informed about honor-related issues than I.

The Honor Committee is one of the most engaged committees of the Jefferson Council. Among other activities, TJC Honor Committee Chair David Greenberg and colleagues met this summer with incoming UVa Honor Committee Chair Hamza Aziz and engaged in a productive conversation about the future of the Honor Code. It is encouraging to know that Aziz is open to input from grizzled (and some not-so-grizzled) alumni.

If anyone is interested in getting involved with the TJC Honor Commitee, feel free to contact Greenberg at [email protected].


What the “Community of Trust” Looks Like

Photo credit: Ann McLean

This is one of two chained-down picnic tables outside the SPE fraternity on Madison Bowl spotted by TJC board member Ann McLean Sunday. Chained down picnic tables? Really?

Readers, send us photos and stories of what UVa’s “community of trust” looks like these days.

How to Degrade the Honor Code: Issue “Warnings”

by James A. Bacon

What’s the Honor Committee to do when a student who violated the Honor Code refuses or is unable to comply with his or her “sanction” ordered by the Committee? That’s one of the tricky questions arising from the shift to a multi-tiered system for punishing lying, cheating and stealing that the Committee wrestled with Monday during an Honor Town Hall.

Sanctions under the system of multi-tiered sanctions can range from expulsion and suspension to taking training or making amends. The new Honor constitution approved by UVa students this spring did not address what happens if convicted students don’t meet the terms of their punishments.

The point of having a non-compliance sanction is to ensure that people meet the deadlines for complying with the punishments, said Kasra Lekan, an engineering school representative.

The Committee Monday considered the merits of applying a new sanction for failing to comply with the original sanction… or just issuing a warning. As the Cavalier Daily reports, “These warnings would continue until the student complied with their sanction.” Continue reading

The Trivialization of Honor

Image credit: Microsoft Image Creator

by James A. Bacon

Last week the Honor Council debated the viability of requiring Honor Code violators to perform community service under the University of Virginia’s new system of multi-tiered sanctions. No vote was held on the proposal.

Lukas Lehman, a second-year engineering student, argued that giving back to the community would allow students to re-engage with the university in constructive ways, reports The Cavalier Daily.

“Doing your sanction means committing yourself to the community of trust,” Lehman said. “Cleaning up the corner, cleaning up Mad Bowl, or working with the community for training makes sense because you are recommitting yourself to the community of trust.”

But students shouldn’t be allowed to choose whatever volunteer organizations they want, said Vice Chair Rachel Liesegang. “I think we should provide organizations [to volunteer with], and I think we should certainly accept student proposals, but I also don’t think we should be as relaxed as just saying they can choose whatever organization they want. If they’re just going to keep volunteering for [an organization they already work with], they’re not actually going through any rehabilitation.”

Bacon’s bottom line: It’s not clear from the Cavalier Daily account how much momentum the community-service sanction has. But the very idea is disturbing on multiple levels. First, suggesting that the act of lying, cheating or stealing can be expunged by a stint of community service trivializes the offenses. Second, the community-service requirement could easily devolve into a tool to enforce ideological conformity. Continue reading

TJC Applauds Honor Code Reforms

The vote by University of Virginia students March 2 to overhaul the Honor constitution was an important step in the revitalization of the Honor System, most notably for reversing a ban on the expulsion sanction that students had voted last year to eliminate, Jefferson Council President Bert Ellis said today.

“The new constitution provides for a tiered system of sanctions in which the punishment matches the offense and streamlines administration of the Honor Code to bring about a speedier resolution of cases,” said Ellis.

“We are highly complimentary of Gabrielle Bray and her team for thinking through what the Honor Code needed and gaining its approval,” he added. “This an excellent example of student government, a hallmark of UVa since its inception.”

As summarized by Richard Gard with the University of Virginia Alumni Association, the new constitution: Continue reading

Board of Visitors Discusses Rollout of “Living Honor” Campaign

Image from the Living Honor video.

The University of Virginia Alumni Association presented an overview to the Board of Visitors last week of its “Living Honor” marketing campaign. The initiative, proposed by President Jim Ryan and Rector Whitt Clement, is designed to aid students and alumni in learning about Honor and its role at the University following a student vote last year to reduce the single sanction for honor offenses from expulsion to a two-semester leave of absence.

The goal, according to alumni association President Lily West and Chief Marketing Officer Susan Klobuchar, is to build greater understanding of the Honor system and to engage members of the university community in a conversation about honor. The centerpiece is a website, Living Honor, which features video clips of students and alumni describing what the Honor system means to them.

The campaign kicked off in August, and a teaser video (shown above) was presented at the Honor Convocation in August. Additionally, the alumni association has provided an “partner toolkit” for faculty.

The concept of “honor” has changed as society has changed. What was evident from the presentation and the video clips is that the justification has shifted from the ideal of honor as a personal virtue to honor as a means to create a “community of trust.” Continue reading

A Virginia-Centric History of the Honor Code

The modern honor system took form under the leadership of Robert E. Lee at Washington & Lee University.

This essay about the evolution of the honor system at Washington & Lee University was published by The General’s Redoubt and is republished here with permission. — JAB

by M. Neely Young

Honor systems in higher education are difficult to trace as they are usually unwritten and based upon tradition. The concept of honor, itself, is difficult to define as it is organic and implicit and changes over time. A working definition of honor is the idea or ideal of a bond between an individual and society as a quality of a person as a quality of a person that is both of social teaching and personal ethos and that manifests itself as a code of conduct. Originally, honor was practiced only by certain groups or classes of individuals within society, but over the last few hundred years, honor has become more democratic and egalitarian in the West and in the United States and today anyone can behave in an honorable manner.

Almost all societies have some concept of honor. In Japan, the Bushido Code or code of the Samurai developed, and in China the Confucian system promoted the idea of the chun-tzu or gentleman who practiced moral rectitude and proper behavior. In the west, the concept can be traced to the ancient Middle East. It then flowed through Greece and Rome to Medieval Europe. In the Middle Ages, honor was associated with the chivalric code and was associated only with the warrior class and the nobility. Christianity came to have a moderating influence on the warlike concept of chivalry by calling for protection of the weak, the promotion of peace, and the “just war.” Beginning in the Renaissance, particularly in England, honor came to be associated with the rising gentry class who aspired to the rank and marks of nobility. They practiced gentility which gave rise to the term “gentleman.” Gentility became synonymous with dignity or integrity, and this ideal was transferred to the new colonies in America. Continue reading