Last week, the University provided an initial glimpse into possible changes to the honor system. Though this review did not come from the recent controversy surrounding the system, the same rules should apply. It should take care to uphold the honor system’s tradition of student self-governance, and its recommendations are a reassuring first step.
The recommendations, which will be presented to the Faculty Council in October, call for improved communication, increased faculty involvement and independent sources of funding. That lattermost goal deserves particularly close attention, as the University must take care to ensure that the system is financially independent from faculty and administrators.
A key recommendation calls for permanent funding for the honor system’s operations not dependent upon the student activities fee.
As a symbol of student self-governance, it is important that the honor system not be beholden to any organization for its operational funding. However, the system must currently apply for funding from Student Congress, like any other student organization, in order to operate.
Given the important function the honor system performs in the academic mission of the University, system leaders should not have to divert their attention from critical matters to keep the lights on. But this is exactly what has happened in years past.
In 2010, the honor system was almost defunded over confusion about its treasurer. While the honor system did ultimately receive funding, it was at a level only slightly more than half of the $20,325.69 that was requested.
This year, Speaker Pro Tempore Adam Horowitz said the honor system received $18,006 in annual funding from Student Congress. But it will have to continue to reapply each year until a more stable source of funding is found.
If the honor system is to be an independent judicial institution, it deserves to have an independent and dedicated source of funding provided by the students it serves.
Options being considered include a dedicated allocation of funding from an existing student fee, the creation of a new student fee and permanent funding from the Division of Student Affairs.
Of these options, the creation of an honor system student fee stands out as the most attractive option. Such a fee would provide necessary funding for a system in need and open up nearly $20,000 in new funding for other student organizations, while maintaining student ownership of the institution.
These recommendations have come from a review that began before the Michael McAdoo plagiarism controversy triggered a closer look. They should provide a reasonable framework for the review related to McAdoo’s case, responding to faculty concerns without going so far as to sacrifice the more than a century-old tradition of student self-governance.
While students might cringe at the idea of additional student fees, they should see a roughly $1 honor system fee as a small price to pay for a judicial system that is run by their peers. The University and students must take care to keep the honor system upright after the recent scandal rather than let it get tangled in the administration’s purse strings.
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