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U. administration stays implementation of three of four Honor Code referenda

University administrators have remanded three of the four Honor Constitution referenda passed last month to a faculty committee. All referenda passed by a wide margin in the winter Undergraduate Student Government elections. The fourth referendum — which requires the Honor Committee to inform students of their roles in hearings at time of contact — can be implemented without faculty review, at the Honor Committee’s own discretion. 

The University’s reason for rejecting all but one of the referenda, according to faculty, is the lack of faculty involvement in developing the large-scale changes the referenda would have made to the Honor Code, a 125-year-old agreement between students and faculty. Administrators say faculty support is necessary for alterations as fundamental and consequential as those proposed by the first three referenda.


In an email sent to undergraduate students on Thursday, Jan. 4, Dean of the College Jill Dolan, Dean of the Faculty Sanjeev Kulkarni, and Vice President for Campus Life W. Rochelle Calhoun informed the student body that the University administration completed a review of the proposed amendments and determined that three of the four were too significant to be implemented without faculty approval. 

At the request of President Eisgruber, these changes will be remanded to the Committee on Examinations and Standing, which will evaluate whether these changes are “warranted” and “consistent with the faculty’s delegation of responsibility.” They will not be implemented unless they can garner the requisite faculty support.

However, as stated in Article VI, Section A of Rights, Rules, Responsibilities, the Honor Code Constitution can be amended in one of two ways, with the second being: “Upon the initiative by petition of 200 members of the undergraduate body, followed by a three-fourths vote in a student referendum as conducted by the Elections Committee of the Undergraduate Student Government. Article VI can be amended only by such a student referendum.” These four referenda in question were passed in accordance with this stipulation — proposed, voted on, and passed without faculty input. The Committee operates largely without faculty oversight on a day-to-day basis.

The four referenda delineate a reduction of the standard penalty for an Honor Code violation from a one-year suspension to disciplinary probation, a requirement for at least two pieces of evidence to bring a case to an Honor Committee hearing, a policy of dismissing cases on which professors testify against a student’s violation of course policy, and a requirement for the Honor Committee to inform students of their roles in hearings at initial contact. They passed by a three-fourths majority in December. 

Previous changes to the Honor System in 1921 and 1975, which allowed for leniency in extreme cases and the possibility of a one-year suspension instead of expulsion, set a precedent for faculty support and approval of major Constitutional amendments. 

According to the email, the University’s faculty “retain[s] its ultimate authority over all academic matters, including those aspects of discipline it entrust[s] to the Honor Committee.” The first three referenda were deemed “a significant departure from prior practice” that “exceed[ed] the scope of the responsibility delegated to the student body by the faculty concerning the Honor System.” 


Last November, a faculty-student Honor System Review Committee was appointed by Dolan, Kulkarni, and Calhoun to review the Honor System. According to Calhoun’s email, the committee will also be asked to include the three referenda in its review and to report its findings and recommendations to the Committee on Examinations and Standing. This committee includes both the chair and clerk of the Honor Committee, who have expressed opposition to the referenda throughout. It also includes the Academics Committee chair.

The fourth referendum does not require faculty review and is expected to be implemented by the Honor Committee in all new procedures. Otherwise, for the time being, the Honor System will continue to operate as it did prior to the elections.

This is a developing story, and will be updated with more information.

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