About the System
1. Is ______ an Honor Offense?
The Committee does not operate on precedent, so there is no way to definitively say whether something will be considered an Honor Offense by the jury.
The Honor Committee By-Laws define each Act as:
“Lying” shall mean the misrepresentation of one or more facts in order to gain a benefit or harm another person, where the actor knows or should know that the misrepresentation will be relied upon by another person.
“Cheating” shall mean a violation of any standards, conditions, or rules for which a student may receive benefit, credit, or acknowledgment, academic or otherwise. Cheating includes, but is not limited to, performance of any of the following acts, or abetting a fellow student in the performance of any of the following acts: using unauthorized materials in the completion of work, copying from a fellow student, plagiarism, multiple submission, false citation, false data submission, and/or unauthorized acquisition of advance knowledge of the contents of an exam or assignment.
“Stealing” shall mean the taking, keeping, or appropriation of the property of another without the owner’s permission or approval. Stealing also includes the planning of or participation in the taking, keeping, or appropriation of the property of another without the owner’s permission or approval. Stealing may include, without limitation, the passing of bad checks, the failure to pay for goods or services received, the failure to pay rent, and other failures to fulfill lawful financial obligations.
An Act of Lying, Cheating, and Stealing must have occurred with knowledge that it was an Honor Offense, and it must be considered a Significant breach of the Community of Trust, in order for it to be considered an Honor Offense. If you have questions or believe that an Honor Offense may have occurred, we encourage you to speak with a confidential advisor (CONTACT or stop by the Honor Committee office).
2. What can I do if I think I’ve committed an Honor Offense?
If you believe you have committed an Honor Offense and you are not under suspicion by anyone, we encourage you to file a Conscientious Retraction (CR). The CR will allow you to come clean, make amends, and remain in the Community of Trust. Click here for more information about filing a CR. If you are not seeking to file a CR, but have questions about a potential Honor Offense, we also encourage you to speak with a confidential advisor (CONTACT or stop by the Honor Committee office). An Advisor will never be able to determine whether a particular act is or is not an Honor Offense, but may be able to offer helpful resources and suggestions for understanding and responding appropriately.
3. Is there a forum for me to share my opinions with the Honor Committee?
All Members of the University community (including students, faculty, and other community members) are encouraged to come to open Honor Committee meetings, every Sunday at 8pm during the regular session of school on the Fourth Floor of Newcomb. There are multiple opportunities at every Honor Committee meeting for community members to give feedback, ask questions, or voice concerns. You can also look out for our community engagement events where we welcome differing perspectives on the Honor System, or email your school’s representative.
Additionally, the Honor Committee has created a standing committee to serve as a liaison between the faculty and the Honor Committee. The Faculty Advisory Committee channels faculty opinion to the Honor Committee and keeps the faculty informed about the Honor System. The Faculty Advisory Committee meets approximately monthly, and if you have comments or concerns, we encourage you to attend a meeting. Please call the Honor offices (924-7602) for meeting dates.
4. Do Honor cases actually occur? At what frequency?
The Honor Committee receives about 40-60 reports every year. For a more information about recent cases that have been adjudicated by the Honor Committee, visit the Public Summaries page of the Honor Committee web site.
5. How is confidentiality maintained in the Honor System?
Maintaining confidentiality for a student going through the Honor System is of paramount concern. Honor support officers and all individuals involved in cases are forbidden, by the Judiciary System Standard of Conduct #11, to discuss Honor cases outside of what is required by their obligations.
6. Does confidentiality impede consistency among cases?
At the Investigation Panel stage, three Honor Committee members, who normally sit on at least one Investigation Panel a week, judge whether a case meets the standards to send it on to trial. Thus, at this stage, confidentiality does not affect the consistency of judgments.
At the hearing stage, the jury is normally composed of 8 – 12 randomly chosen student panelists – students requested for panelist duty from the University population. Because of the confidentiality of case results, these students will not have any prior knowledge of judgments in previous Honor cases. Each panel determines a student’s guilt or innocence on three criteria – act, knowledge, and significance. An act is defined as significant if open toleration of it would harm the community of trust at the University of Virginia. The members of each student panel determine, at each hearing, the community standard of significance.
7. Can anyone attend a closed Honor hearing?
No. If a student chooses a closed Honor hearing, the only persons to be admitted to the hearing are the student panel, the Honor Committee members presiding over the case, the Honor support officers involved, the Reporter of the case and the accused student(s). The student may ask to bring guests for moral support and to ensure that the proceedings are fair. The Honor Committee also reserves the right to have up to ten support officers or Committee members observe the proceedings for training purposes. All persons attending closed Honor hearings are bound by the Honor Committee’s rules of confidentiality. Students violating said rules may be subject to Judiciary charges under standard #11.
Accused students may elect to hold an open Honor Hearing. Open Honor hearings are relatively infrequent, but any student is welcome to attend when they do occur.
Reporting an Offense
8. If I see an Honor offense, am I required to go directly to the Honor Committee and report it?
You are strongly encouraged to show your support of the University’s Honor System by using the Honor System for significant acts of lying, cheating, and stealing. The Honor System’s constitution, however, does not require that you report cases for each act that you encounter. The University does not have a non-toleration clause – i.e. a student is not required to report an Honor offense that he or she sees – and this spirit is extended to faculty members. Your school or department policy may have other requirements with regard to the Honor System.
If you are a faculty member, you have the freedom to speak to other faculty members about the incident(s) (as long as you preserve the identity of the student in question), to speak to the student(s) involved, and/or to solely address the incident through the Honor System.
9. If I know that I want to report an Honor case, how can I do that?
You can contact a student Honor Advisor through the Honor Offices (924-7602). Alternatively, you can contact your school’s elected Honor representative. Your advisor will arrange a time to meet with you to discuss the possible Honor violation. By speaking with an Honor support officer at this time, you are not bound to report an Honor case. If you do decide to proceed with an Honor case after discussing your options with the Honor advisor, she or he will take you through the process.
10. Can I rescind my report of an Honor case if I change my mind?
No. After you formally report an Honor case against a student, the case will be in the system until it is resolved. This policy was instituted to avoid situations in which the Reporter might be pressured to drop a case against his will.
11. What is the first thing I should do after reporting an honor case?
The first thing a Reporter should do after reporting a case is to make detailed contemporaneous notes of the offense in question. These notes should include as much information as possible about what made you suspect an honor offense. Please include any useful background or contextual information as well as the steps you took leading up to your decision to report a case.
12. What do I do with any physical evidence that I have related to the alleged honor offense?
Do not return any documents back to the student. Your honor advisor will set up a meeting to collect any evidence that you have along with your contemporaneous notes. In order to most effectively investigate the case, we ask for all original documents relevant to the investigation. If you would like this documentation returned at the end of the proceedings, please let your advisor know.
13. What is the process for investigating the reported case?
You will be assigned an Honor Advisor, who will serve as your confidential personal contact and source of information throughout the process. Two Honor Investigators will serve as impartial investigators. They will interview you, the investigated student, and any other witnesses who may have information about the case. After the investigation is complete, the case will proceed to an Investigative Panel comprised of three Honor Committee members. If the panel finds, based on all the evidence, that it is more likely than not that an honor offense has occurred, then the student will have the option of requesting a hearing or leaving the University admitting guilt. If the panel finds that it is not more likely than not that an honor offense has occurred, then the case will be dropped.
14. What should I tell the student regarding the report of the case?
If the student asks you about the case after you have reported an honor investigation, you should tell the student that any questions that he or she has related to the investigation should be directed towards his or her Honor Advisor, or they can call the Honor offices directly at 924-7216.
15. What is the role of a faculty member in the Honor System of the University of Virginia?
Faculty faith and support is crucial to the longevity of the Honor System. As long-term community members, faculty have a substantial role in shaping students’ attitudes towards the Honor System. Faculty members also enjoy many benefits of living in a community of trust. When you put Honor information of your syllabus or discuss your Honor policies in class, you are showing that the Honor System is alive in the classroom. When you trust students’ excuses, leave the room during a test, or give a take-home exam, you are enjoying some of the benefits of the Honor System. Faculty members also participate in the Honor System by reporting Honor cases when they see a violation of the Honor code.
16. How can I utilize U.Va.’s community of trust in my classroom?
- Give take home exams.
- Give unproctored exams.
- Believe a student when he gives you an excuse unless you have some reason to believe otherwise.
- Encourage students to write and sign the pledge on all graded assignments.
17. How can faculty contribute to the effectiveness of the Honor System?
Put your Honor policy on your syllabus. Discuss your position on Honor in first days of class and throughout the year. Be explicit about what “Pledged” means to you on each assignment. Eliminating ambiguity goes a long way towards ensuring honorable student behavior.
Research regarding college cheating reveals that, when a student believes a faculty member is supportive of the school’s Honor system or academic integrity policy, that student is much more likely to take the policy seriously. If students feel trusted, they will rise to that trust. Trust students, and let them know why you are trusting them.
18. What should faculty do if they are contacted by an outside attorney about an Honor case?
Faculty may, but are not required to, communicate with an accused student’s attorney about an Honor case. There is generally no reason not to be reasonably cooperative, depending on what is being asked, but this is always a matter of judgment and circumstance. Before discussing a case with legal counsel, there should be clear documentation that the attorney is in fact who he or she says, and has in fact been retained by the student in question. Faculty may and should feel comfortable in referring legal counsel to the Office of General Counsel (924-3586), especially if questioning becomes argumentative or intimidating, appears to be suggesting answers, or presents any other reason for causing uneasiness. The General Counsel’s Office will be glad to intervene and provide available information requested. The Honor Committee processes also provide accused students and their advisors with opportunity to understand the factual basis of the charge.
19. If a faculty member is sued in conjunction with an Honor case, will the University provide representation?
While it necessarily depends on the circumstances, experience over the years has shown that University faculty who discharge their responsibilities in good faith, and without malice, will be afforded legal representation through the Office of General Counsel. Faculty members are also free to retain personal counsel of their choosing at their own personal expense.