UNC-Chapel Hill's policy of trying students accused of honor code infractions in a student-run court contrasts sharply with student judicial policies at nearby universities.
UNC-CH's honor court system recently came under criticism from a group of computer science students who were tried and found guilty of cheating on an assignment. The case has raised questions about the legitimacy of having students trying and sentencing students.
UNC-CH is one of only 12 universities nationwide with a student-run honor court system. Most universities rely on a mixed faculty and student board in disciplinary proceedings.
The honor court system at UNC-Charlotte is governed by the school's Academic Integrity Board.
The board is chaired by a faculty member. A second faculty member and one student also sit on the board.
Rick Lejk, chair of the Academic Integrity Board, thinks the UNC-C judicial system works well.
Lejk said he prefers the honor system to include both faculty and students.
"This system gives us a dual approach with the inclusion of both students and faculty," Lejk said. "It involves (faculty) who are ultimately in charge of the academics at the university."
Lejk said one of the system's advantages is that it offers students the opportunity to keep disciplinary measures off their permanent record at the university.
If students agree to the drawn settlement, the accusation will never appear on the students' final record.
N.C. State University has a similar system to UNC-C, but it works differently in certain areas.
The accused students meet with a student advisor from the Office of Student Conduct to determine whether allegations have enough merit to justify a hearing. If allegations continue, the accused students present their cases to the Board of Student Conduct.
A chief justice, who is a student elected by the student body, chairs the board. Two faculty members and two students comprise the remaining board members.
Bianca Merrick, administrative assistant to the chief justice, said the system serves students fairly. "The system allows students to be really involved and see how others affect the university."
The honor system at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville is more akin to the UNC-CH system.
An elected student chairs the hearing, which is reviewed by randomly chosen students at the university.
"The entire honor system at UVa. is one of the things that alumni are most proud of," said Adam Trusner, honor adviser for the system.
But the system is not flawless.
"There have been complaints of racial bias in the system," Trusner said. "The university is looking at ways to deal with this complaint and improve the perception of the system in race relations."
Trusner said he thinks the student-run system is the best choice.
"It is more responsive to what students feel, and it is the best way to learn how to govern ourselves."
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