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Letter to the Editor: Expand Honor Committee membership

The defining feature of the University’s Honor Code and Honor Committee is its legacy of student ownership. The Committee is entirely student-run, differentiating it from other disciplinary bodies at Princeton and other universities. The Committee’s responsibilities are twofold: we act as both investigators and adjudicators for alleged Honor Code violations. Every step of the process, from report to investigation to hearing, is entirely student-directed.

To respond to the increased demand we have faced to investigate and adjudicate cases in a timely manner, we have internally passed an amendment to expand Honor Committee membership to fifteen undergraduate students for the 2017-2018 academic year. We believe that increasing membership is an important step to further our ability to fairly investigate and adjudicate cases while preserving the legacy of the University’s Honor Code.


Fair hearings and decisions depend on conducting thorough investigations. These investigations are comprehensive, typically necessitating the collection of testimony about examination room environments from faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates. The richness of this testimony depends on the promptness of investigations, so timeliness is a matter of fairness for the Committee. Further, investigations have become more complex due to smartphones. Collecting and interpreting evidence related to phone use often requires investigators to spend more time on an investigation.

We also believe the Committee should be representative of the student body. Accordingly, we value having members who are engaged in the community in ways beyond service to the Committee. Our current members serve as class presidents, RCAs, varsity athletes, musicians, actors, debaters, and student activists. We are also dedicated students concentrating in departments across the University.

Our ability to remain engaged in the organizations and positions on campus that contribute to our diversity of backgrounds and perspectives depends on our ability to balance these organizations and positions against our Honor Committee responsibilities, which are our highest priority when we investigate alleged violations. We have found that our current number of members, which is twelve, eleven of whom may investigate alleged violations, requires us to frequently prioritize our Honor Committee responsibilities over our other contributions to the community.

The three additional members of the Honor Committee will be appointed from the student body at large. At the start of each academic year, two first-year students will be appointed as first-year representatives to the Committee. The amendment, which was unanimously approved by the members of the Committee, will not alter the Committee’s quorum for a hearing, which is seven members. The Undergraduate Student Government Senate will vote on the amendment this Sunday, April 16, at 5:00 p.m.

Expanded membership of the Committee provides an opportunity to increasingly promote student voices in the Committee’s work. The Honor Code and the Honor Committee are of the students, for the students, and by the students. Their continued relevancy and success depends on students taking an active role in shaping the Code and the Committee. Accordingly, we strongly encourage students who are interested in the Committee’s work and impact on this campus to consider applying for service on the Committee. We welcome and look forward to discussion of the Committee’s proposal in the coming weeks.



Carolyn Liziewski ’18, Honor Committee Chair

Elizabeth Haile ’19, Honor Committee Clerk

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