By invoking §704(C)2 of the Undergraduate Student Government Senate constitution, which empowers him to create subcommittees on, among other things, "the Honor System," USG Academics Chair Patrick Flanigan '18 has established a subcommittee on the Honor Constitution.
In a question and answer session during the Sunday, Oct. 8 USG Senate meeting, Flanigan explained that the proposal for the committee had been made public as of the USG meeting notes released earlier that day, around 3 p.m. U-Councilor Ethan Marcus ’18 asked Flanigan if Honor Committee Chair Carolyn Liziewski ’18 had been approached prior to the committee’s establishment. Flanigan replied in the negative.
The subcommittee’s ultimate goal is to put a referendum on the ballot in time for elections in December. A referendum on any reform of the Honor Constitution would require three quarters of the student body to approve it and a 33 percent voter turnout rate.
“This is very much a democratic process with experts, students, faculty, and administrators involved,” Flanigan said.
Although she is not aware of the specifics of the new committee, Liziewski wrote in an email that “a conversation around the Honor Code is always welcomed.”
However, Flanigan further explained his motive for establishing the committee by noting past difficulties in working with members of the Honor Committee.
“One of the big problems I run into is the people who are on the committee say that [my] proposed reform won’t work,” he explained, adding that members then argue that the confidentiality of individual cases prevents them from explaining why the proposed reform would be ineffective.
“I have found that route to be wholly unproductive,” Flanigan said of approaching the Honor Committee or its chair.
“I just get the circle,” U-Councilor Diego Negrón-Reichard ’18 said, explaining that he has experienced similar pushback. Negrón-Reichard is one of the members Flanigan selected for the subcommittee.
“The issue with the Honor Committee is that we’ve seen agenda setting and push back on any reform,” said Negrón-Reichard. “Patrick is doing this kind of amazing thing – tackling something we all agree is an issue.”
For the subcommittee, Flanigan selected three U-Councilors, a class president, and several students with experience on the Honor Committee or the Faculty-Student Committee on Discipline, the latter of which will not be addressed by this subcommittee. The selections, confirmed with 15 positive votes and two abstentions, include: Negrón-Reichard; U-Council Chair and Honor Committee Selection Committee member Pooja Patel ’18; Honor Committee member and junior class president Chris Umanzor ’19; member of the Committee on Discipline Mary Claire Bartlett ’18; and former member of the Honor Committee, Micah Herskind ’19.
According to USG Senate precedent, new committees and subcommittees can meet before all of the members are formally confirmed, although they cannot take any official action until confirmation proceedings finish.
“I wanted people who worked with the process and were experts and who represented the student body and were open to reform,” Flanigan explained in response to questions about his membership selections for the committee. He added that he has already been arranging for people to offer outside perspective to the subcommittee by speaking before it – such as from beyond institutions like USG, the Honor Committee, and the Committee on Discipline.
Flanigan selected seven people to serve on the committee because that is the number of people who serve on the Honor Committee in any particular case. Six of seven members of the subcommittee will be required to confirm anything that the committee decides – just as it takes six members on the Honor Committee to convict an accused student.
USG Vice President Dan Qian ‘18, who led the meeting, called it “poetic.”
He emphasized that he and the new subcommittee are “really open” to hearing outside opinions.
“I really look forward to administrator feedback and feedback from the faculty,” Flanigan said in an interview after the meeting. “I want to work with the committee, but I think it’s important to have a committee with an eye towards reform.”
“I hope Patrick, the subcommittee, and I can work together to engage students and faculty in productive conversations about the Honor Code,” Liziewski wrote in an email.
Flanigan also presented an Academics Committee report that touched on several other projects. He noted that he will continue to prioritize efforts to make the University more inclusive to students with low-income and/or first generation college student backgrounds. He said that through working with Dean of the College Jill Dolan and several other administrators, he is focusing on reducing the financial burden of international travel and the cost of travel home. Additionally, he noted that he would ultimately like to see the end of summer savings, a program that requires students on financial aid to work during the summer to contribute to the financial aid pack the University provides them.
Flanigan’s update on the President’s Committee on the Calendar was overwhelmingly negative. He explained that because the committee’s decision must be approved by 2/3 of the faculty twice, it’s difficult to find a workable solution.
“I lose confidence every day in the ability of this committee to bring a palatable calendar to the faculty,” Flanigan said.
His report received resounding applause at the conclusion of its presentation.
The rest of the meeting was devoted to USG business from the several committee chairs and the president.
USG President Myesha Jemison ’18 noted in her report that her conversations with administrators regarding parking passes have not led to a positive outlook. Because the University will continue to grow and build on existing land, parking passes will continue to become harder to come by. However, administrators did note that they would be working to publicize existing resources more.
Jemison also said that she has discussed with administrators a proposal to have a student trustee in addition to the young alumni trustee on the Board of Trustees. She said that while Vice President for Campus Life W. Rochelle Calhoun had a positive attitude towards such a plan, President Christopher Eisgruber ’83 was opposed.
USG Treasurer Allison Shim ’19 said that the treasurer’s report will come out at the next USG meeting.
USG also confirmed the following student groups: American Foreign Policy, Italian Society, The Playwright’s Guild, The Pool Club, Princeton Law Review, and Princeton Melee. Although Qian said that he had to work with some groups to revise their constitutions, all were ultimately confirmed.
The next public USG meeting will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 15 in Lewis Library 120.