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The Daily Tar Heel

Administrators should redefine Honor Court's reach

Chancellor Holden Thorp’s recent decision to suspend and review a provision of the Honor Code is a step in the right direction for the University — but it’s not the only reform the Honor System needs.

A holistic review of the system could provide clarity in what kinds of cases the student-led Honor Court should consider, and the court should be given full autonomy in those areas.

Throughout his tenure, Thorp had steadfastly resisted interfering in the court until now, and many before him did the same.

But recent campus events have brought to light the fact that certain aspects of the Honor Code deal with incidents that shouldn’t be left entirely up to students’ adjudication.

Because of this, sexual assault cases, for example, are now handled by a student grievance committee, rather than students alone. Faculty Council is also pushing for faculty representation in academic integrity cases.

The provision now in question — one that deals with students’ “disruptive or intimidating behavior” — is clumsy and difficult to judge.

As many have already stated, asking someone to determine whether one student’s speech might be viewed as intimidating leaves doors wide open to opportunities for infringement on free speech rights.

And, perhaps for the same reasons why sexual assault cases are now out of the Honor Court’s jurisdiction, it’s something students should not have to judge on their own.

Suspending this provision of the Honor Code was necessary — but by waiting until now to intervene, administrators have first let a potentially unconstitutional rule exist for too long, and then belatedly stepped into areas where they’ve long preached they can’t, or won’t, step.

The administration needs to seize this opportunity to redefine what falls under the Honor Court’s jurisdiction, and what needs to be handled on a higher level.

Continuing to judge cases piecemeal — determining as each comes up whether it falls under Honor Court jurisdiction — is ineffective and disrespects the system.

It interferes with the court’s autonomy more than a clear delineation of responsibilities would.

The administration should review all of its policies and determine which provisions might pose a problem moving forward, and which types of cases the Honor Court shouldn’t even be handling.

The court deserves full autonomy on some cases, and others should go directly to a higher level.
Now is the time for administrators to decide which is which.

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