The Daily Tar Heel

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Friday December 2nd

Students could face penalties for failing to report Honor Code violations

In the future, UNC students who witness violations of the Honor Code might be bound to report them, or face prosecution.

On Monday, a committee of the Honor System Task Force discussed adding an “accountability clause” to the Honor Code, which would punish students for not reporting violations of the code.

Members of the committee stressed that the discussion is preliminary and said the intent is to foster an “integrity culture” on campus.

“If we want (the culture) to work, it’s gotta have teeth,” said Andy Perrin, associate chairman of the sociology department and member of the committee.

Dean of Students Jonathan Sauls said the enforced accountability could place a burden on students to report one another, but thinks the idea might have merit.

“To me, the benefit, setting aside the question of enforcement, would be the affirmation that honor and integrity are community concepts,” he said.

“People who come to UNC agree not only to conform their own behavior, but to create a community of trust.”

Sauls said UNC had an accountability clause until the 1960s or 1970s, but does not know why the University removed it.

The committee also discussed altering the burden of proof required to find a student guilty, as well as the severity of punishments in response to that possible change.

If the burden of proof is lowered, making it easier to find a student guilty, then the Honor Court might diminish the severity of punishments.

Currently, the Honor Court is expected to suspend students for academic violations, Sauls said.

Violations are judged on a case-by-case basis and could merit a less or more severe punishment depending on the circumstances, he added.

The standard burden of proof in Honor Court cases is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The task force is considering lowering it to either a preponderance of evidence, which means it is more likely than not that an offense took place, or clear and convincing evidence, which means a reasonable person would be convinced, Sauls said.

Lowering the burden of proof to a preponderance of evidence would bring academic conduct in line with most of UNC’s peer institutions, as well as federally mandated sexual assault policy, Sauls said.

Amanda Claire Grayson, the incoming student attorney general, said she has reservations about adopting such a low burden of proof.

“I don’t know how the whole student body is going to feel,” Grayson said.

“These are things that I still definitely have reservations about,” she added.

“I have warmed to them to some extent, but I am fearful of the shift of the philosophy of the honor system maybe not being innocent until proven guilty.”

Contact the University Editor at university@dailytarheel.com.

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