Kat Soltany ‘22 (she/her)
Since I joined my sophomore year, I’ve been overwhelmed by students asking me what the Honor Council does. Some are prospective council members, and some are just students who have no idea what our jobs entail. At first, I was shocked—I thought everyone knew what we did. We conduct hearings for students who have violated the honor code. But the basic premise wasn’t the issue. Students were inquiring about the process of reporting someone, what hearings looked like, and what happened after we finished.
I soon realized the Honor Council was shrouded in mystery and secrecy. Students thought they would be punished for asking details about our responsibilities since parts of our jobs are confidential. However, the only thing confidential about our jobs is who participates in the hearing and the details of each case. Everything else is public information. Disclaimer: I’m warning you now—this article will be dense and long. Read to uncover the ‘secrets’ of our campus’s value system.
Many students ask: “How do I begin the process of reporting someone?” As a student or professor, you contact Dean Byron McCrae, the Dean of Students, and inform him of what you’ve witnessed or heard. From there, Dean McCrae will forward it to the Student Solicitors—two students elected by the student body—so they can determine whether a case is necessary. The Solicitors will meet with the student and inform them of their rights, then contact the professor to receive more information. If they decide there is enough evidence to conduct a hearing, they will inform the Honor Council leadership team (consisting of the Chair, Vice Chair, Solicitors, and Defense Advisors) and the Dean of Students of the charge so we can begin preparing for the case. The student will respond to the statement of charge from the Dean of Students office, either accepting or denying it, and shortly after, the Defense Advisors—two students also elected by the student body—will meet with the student to understand their response to the charge and their involvement on campus. Simultaneously, the Solicitors will compile an evidence packet with relevant documents for the council to read before the hearing, providing necessary context to the case. These documents might include: the professor’s syllabus, a copy of a test or paper, or emails about the charge exchanged between the student and professor. Before the case, the Defense Advisors will go over this packet with the student to ensure they understand the evidence the council will receive. The Vice Chair will then set a date and time for the hearing, distributing the evidence packet to the six councilmembers that will serve on the case.
In every hearing, there are two main sections: 1) deciding if the student is responsible for the presented charge, and 2) if responsible, what sanction does the council believe is appropriate for the violation? If the student takes responsibility for the charge, we skip straight to the second section. We begin by introducing ourselves with our names, positions, and grades, along with the statement of confidentiality: “I commit to keeping the information in this hearing confidential.” Hearings consist only of the Chair, the Vice Chair, the six council members, the Student Solicitors, the Defense Advisors, and the student. After introductions, the Solicitors present the charge to the council, and then both the Defense Advisors and the Solicitors will give their opening statements. These statements consist of their explanation of the situation
and charge, along with any important details about their involvement on campus or personal experiences if relevant to the charged violation. Next, we begin the questioning period. The Solicitors, Defense Advisors, and six council members have the opportunity to question the student (respectfully, of course) to clarify any salient or important details pertaining to the case. These could be about the format of a test, conversations with the professor, or anything else relevant to the story. Once the questioning period is over, everyone except the Chair, Vice Chair, and six council members will leave so the council can begin the deliberation period. This is when the six council members will decide the appropriate sanction, if one is necessary. We treat each case individually, only operating based on “clear and convincing” evidence. The deliberation period can take 30 minutes or 3 hours depending on the case. Once the six council members come to a majority consensus, the case is finished. I, the Chair, notify the faculty member, the Dean of Students Office, and the student of the outcome, and the Vice Chair submits all relevant documents to the Dean of Students office, including the evidence packet and the digest. The digest consists of all statements from the case, either paraphrased or quoted, to serve as evidence if the student appeals the resolution. If they choose to appeal, the Vice Chair will represent the Council at a Review Board meeting, where the board decides the fairness of the outcome. Everything I’ve outlined above must occur within 10 business days of the initial charge.
Now that you know everything about the hearing process, I hope any lingering sense of mystery will dissipate. Other than the occasional full council meeting, this is all our jobs entail. As Chair this year, I’m making it my mission to remove all secrecy surrounding the council, so if you have any questions about our process or responsibilities, do not hesitate to email me!
Kat Soltany ‘22 (she/her) is an Environmental Studies major from McLean, VA. Kat can be reached at email@example.com.