This page is designed to provide participants in Honor Committee hearings with a guide to what they may expect as normal procedure. Please note that the Honor System Committee is not a court and an honor hearing is not a trial. These procedures constitute a guide to expected behavior, but the committee and its officers are free to act flexibly in ways consistent with fairness, and minor variations should not be considered violations of procedure.
Before a Hearing
A case begins when a member of the community comes forward with evidence that a violation of the Honor Code might have occurred. This person normally brings the suspected violation to the attention of the Student Chair (SC) or the Faculty Chair (FC). If the Chairs decide that there is sufficient evidence to proceed, the SC meets with the concerned student(s) as soon as possible, informs them of the allegation, and presents them with copies of the supporting evidence. The SC listens to what the student(s) has to say and provides instruction/guidance concerning their rights and the Honor Committee’s standard procedures. The conversation between the SC and the accused may become part of the evidence at a hearing at the discretion of the SC. The SC should make clear during the conversation with the accused student whether the discussion is confidential or not. The FC will meet with the members of the faculty or staff who will be appearing at the hearing to acquaint them with hearing procedure and guidelines.
When the case is ready to move forward, the SC, FC, and Dean decide on a time for the hearing. Other members of the committee are not informed of the nature of the case or the identity of the participants before the hearing convenes. The SC informs the accused student(s) of the time and place of the hearing.
In preparation for the hearing, the Dean’s Office will have prepared sufficient copies of all written evidence for committee members and the accused. Accused students have the right and responsibility to present any relevant evidence. They have the right to call witnesses on their behalf. Students presenting written evidence should bring sufficient copies for the committee; if they need assistance in preparing evidence, they may call on the Dean’s Office for help (photocopying, providing internet hook-ups, etc.) Accused students have the right to be accompanied by an advisor. The advisor must be a member of the College community (i.e., student, faculty or staff). An accused student may not be accompanied by or represented by an attorney. During the hearing the advisor and the accused student may speak to one another, but the advisor may not address the committee or question witnesses.
During a Hearing
The Honor Committee must constitute a quorum of three-quarters of its student (voting) members on campus at the time of the hearing. If fewer than five student members can be present at a hearing, both the accused student and the Dean must agree to proceed with the hearing. All parties are brought into the room.
The SC brings the hearing to order. If a member of the committee has a significant reason to doubt his or her ability to consider the case fairly, or the accused student believes that a committee member would be unable to be fair, he or she may ask to be recused. Acquaintance or friendship with a participant alone are not grounds for recusal; the committee chairs will need to hear strong and convincing reasons.
Members of the committee then introduce themselves. The SC reminds all present that the hearing is held in strictest confidence: nothing that transpires may be described or discussed outside the hearing. The SC then describes the procedures of the hearing itself. All notes and documentary evidence must be left in the room and will be shredded after the hearing, save original copies of evidence to be retained by the Dean’s office. Witnesses not immediately presenting evidence wait outside the room until called.
The accuser presents his or her evidence and explains why s/he suspects an Honor Code violation. Members of the committee may ask the accuser questions for clarification at any time. When the accuser has finished presenting his or her evidence, the committee questions him or her, and the accused student may question the accuser. If there are additional accusing witnesses, they are brought in one at a time and questioned first by the committee and then by the accused student.
The accuser still present, the accused student will then respond to the charges: provide an explanation, present exculpatory evidence, offer an apology, recount a series of mistakes–whatever he or she chooses. The student may choose to call witnesses on his or her behalf. Witnesses are brought in one at a time. The committee questions the accused student and any witnesses in turn.
Once questions have been asked and answered, the accuser and any remaining witnesses leave the hearing. The accused student may address the committee in the accuser’s absence or answer any final questions. When finished, the SC escorts the accused from the room and arranges a way to communicate the committee’s decision to the accused student.
The committee then deliberates over three questions:
- Is the alleged behavior an infraction of the Honor Code?
- If it is, did the accused student commit the infraction?
- If s/he did, what penalty is recommended to the Dean?
All members of the committee participate in the deliberations; however, only the student members can vote. A vote of three-quarters of those present and voting is required both for conviction and for recommending a sanction to the Dean. In the event that a three-quarters vote to recommend a sanction cannot be reached, one or more students may endorse separate recommended sanctions. A recommendation for dismissal requires a unanimous vote of the student members present. The dismissal is carried out only upon approval by both the Dean of the College and the President of the College.
After a Hearing
Immediately after the hearing, the student chair lets the accused know what the committee decided. The faculty chair relays the same information to the accuser.
If the committee does find the accused guilty of an infraction, then the dean will relay the decision formally, in writing. In a letter to the accused student, copied to the accuser and to the student and faculty chairs, the dean will let the accused student know the sanction imposed, the reasons for this, and the committee’s particular concerns.
Sanctions range from a letter of warning to failure on an assignment, failure in the course, suspension, or expulsion from the College. Sanctions are often augmented by placing the student on disciplinary probation for a set period, ranging from a semester to several years.
The standard sanction for a violation of the honor code is failure in the course.
There are no penalties automatically imposed for a given offense. Much depends on the nature of the offense, possible mitigating factors, and the committee’s impression of the student’s understanding of and respect for the honor code.
A student who is found to have committed a breach of the Code of Conduct or the Honor Code while on disciplinary probation risks severe sanctions, including suspension or expulsion. Unlike a letter of warning, disciplinary probation is considered a “reportable offense” and becomes part of the student’s official permanent record.
The accused student may request a reconsideration of the Committee’s decision on the basis of substantial new evidence or improper procedures. A request for reconsideration must be made in writing to one or both of the Committee chairs within a week of the Committee’s decision, or the decision is considered accepted. The request for reconsideration will only be granted if a majority of the Committee members who heard the case agree. The Committee may choose to reconsider either the case in its entirety or just one or more aspects of the case, and in doing so may receive or review any information it determines is relevant to the reconsideration. Following its reconsideration, the Committee will refer its decision to the Dean for the Dean’s action, if any, as appropriate. After a rehearing, the Dean’s decision is permanent. The student does not have any right to contest the rehearing’s decision and sanction.