When Chancellor Holden Thorp issued a call for reform of the honor system last summer, the system’s student leaders vowed to retain the institution’s most tradition-bound characteristic — its entirely student-led structure.
But with last week’s approval of a new sexual assault policy — one that removes cases from the jurisdiction of the honor system effective Aug. 1 — the institution’s autonomy was called into question.
Unanimously approved by UNC’s Faculty Council April 13, the change will likely lead to a new body of trained administrators, faculty and students to handle cases of sexual assault.
But honor system members, who have long praised the value of students holding other students accountable, have endorsed this narrowing of responsibilities — claiming the institution cannot provide the demanded resources.
“The new policy doesn’t undermine our credibility or autonomy in any way,” said Margaret Anderson, chairwoman of the Honor Court. “It will just help us maintain our community standards better in every other area.”
Anderson said the new policy does not remove Honor Court members entirely. Two members will sit on the five-person panel, which will also include two faculty members and one administrator, she said.
The reduction of student presence in judging sexual assault cases was made to mitigate bias surrounding the sensitive issue.
But the concern of whether bias extends to other violations the court hears — like plagiarism and fighting — has been disputed.
“Bias exists in sexual assault cases because they are just so much more emotional, and people have more preconceived ideas about them,” Chairwoman of the Faculty Jan Boxill said.