The Honor System
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The Honor System has been a defining characteristic of life at the University
for 160 years. Under the Honor System, University students have pledged to
act honorably, i.e., not to lie, cheat, or steal. This ideal of Honor is not
imposed upon students; rather, by choosing to enroll at the University of Virginia,
students are committing themselves to a community with a common ideal. Specifically,
each student at the University signs a pledge to abide by the Honor System
as part of his or her application for admission. Students also commit themselves
to governing the system–the Honor Committee (together with its support officers
and jurors) is comprised entirely of your fellow students. The result of these
commitments is to produce, at the University of Virginia, a “Community of Trust.”
One benefit of the Honor System is a presumption of honor, i.e., each University
student is presumed to act honorably unless his or her actions prove otherwise.
This presumption accompanies a student in all of his or her dealings with fellow
students, faculty members, administrators, and members of the local community.
This positive conception of honor is the heart of the Honor System.
Individual responsibility is essential to maintaining our Community of Trust.
The Honor System depends entirely upon the willingness of each student to live
up to the standards set by the community of his or her fellow students. Any
violation of the Honor Code by a University student constitutes a breach of
the Community of Trust. Therefore, it is the responsibility of each student
to report conduct that may demonstrate a disregard for these basic principles
The central purpose of the Honor System is to sustain and protect a Community
of Trust in which students commit themselves to the pursuit of truth in order
enjoy the freedom to develop their intellectual and personal potential.
Dishonest conduct–whether lying, cheating or stealing–is incompatible with
these pursuits, which can thrive only in an atmosphere of trust. The Honor
not exist merely to punish students who commit Honor offenses; rather, its
purpose is to promote and maintain an atmosphere of trust.
The Single Sanction
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If a student willfully commits a non-trivial act of lying, cheating or
stealing, he or she breaches the trust of the entire
community. Students convicted of an Honor offense are permanently dismissed
University. Graduates convicted of an Honor offense are subject to degree revocation
by the General Faculty. These measures help to promote an atmosphere of trust
and freedom from suspicion in our community.
The Honor Committee
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The Honor Committee is responsible for the overall administration of the
Honor System. The Committee is comprised of two representatives from each of
the eleven schools of the University with the exception of the College of
Sciences, which has five representatives. The Committee elects a Chair,
Vice-Chair for Investigations, Vice-Chair for Trials, Vice-Chair for Community Relations,
and a Vice-Chair for Education from among its members. Honor Committee members
are elected each Spring by the student body.
Operation Anyone can report an alleged Honor offense violation
by calling an Honor Advisor or Committee member. Once a case is reported, the
assigns two trained Honor Counsel to investigate. After the investigation is
completed, the evidence is presented to a panel of three Committee members,
decide whether or not there is enough evidence to formally accuse the student
of the alleged Honor offense. If the student is formally accused, he or she
elect to either (1) leave the University, without requesting a trial (in which
case he or she will de deemed to have admitted guilt, whether or not such an
admission is expressly made), or (2) request an Honor trial. If a student
requests a trial, he or she will have the opportunity to present evidence and
witnesses in his or her defense to a panel of student jurors.
If a student fails to cooperate with the Honor process sufficient to
establish ongoing communication about his or her case, the Committee may cause
a “registration block” (barring further registration) and/or a “transcript
(resulting in the denial of transcript requests) to be imposed until such
communication has been established (or restored). If a student is the subject
of an Honor accusation immediately prior to graduation, his or her degree will
not be conferred, and his or her diploma will be withheld, pending the resolution
of such accusation.
Any student found (or deemed) guilty of an Honor offense will be permanently
dismissed from the University and will not be entitled to receive or hold a
degree from the University of Virginia. The notation “enrollment discontinued”
will be placed on the student’s transcript. In the case of a student found (or
deemed) guilty of an Honor offense following graduation, the General Faculty
will undertake proceedings to revoke his or her degree.
The rules of the Honor System apply to any person who was a University
student at the time an alleged Honor offense was committed. Students who leave
or have left the University for any reason (including transfer, withdrawal,
leave of absence, graduation or other failure to return to the University for
any reason), at any time, whether before a case is reported or thereafter,
are subject to the Honor System, so long as a case is reported within two years
from the date of the alleged offense.
The current rules and procedures of the Honor Committee, as embodied in its
By-laws (as they may be amended or updated from time to time), are available
directly from the Honor Committee. While the By-laws describe the organization
and procedures of the Honor System, they are not meant to be exhaustive or
extend to every imaginable circumstance, and they do not constitute a contract
between the University and University students, past or present. Questions
regarding the By-laws or any aspect of Honor Committee practice or procedure
should be addressed directly to the Honor Committee, at (434) 924-7602, or
through its website at www.student.virginia.edu/honor.
In 1990, the student body reaffirmed a 1980 referendum to allow randomly
selected students to serve as jurors in honor trials. It is the right of the
accused to be judged by a panel of peers; therefore, students are called upon to
serve as jurors to help judge the guilt or innocence of an accused student. To
ensure that the trial process remains as equitable and expedient as possible,
students are obligated to respond to the jury notification e-mails forwarded by
the Honor Committee. Once secured as a juror, students are expected to appear on
the designated trial date. Failure to meet these obligations will be considered
a breach of the University Standards of Conduct and may result in an appropriate
sanction as determined by the Judiciary Committee. By devoting one day to
sitting as a juror on an Honor panel, students help to guarantee that the Honor
System remains a vital and responsive aspect of University life.
Honor trials will generally last one full day. The Trial Chair (an Honor
Committee member) provides knowledge of Honor Committee practice and procedure
and experience in conducting Honor trials.
Honor Support Officers
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The Honor Committee appoints student support officers each year who are
responsible for various aspects of the Honor System. Honor Advisors, Counsel,
and Educators advise students involved in Honor cases; conduct investigations
and assist with trials; and disseminate the philosophies and guidelines of the
Honor System, respectively. The Honor Committee selects support officers each
Fall through an interview and examination process.
The Community Relations Committee
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The Community Relations Committee, formerly known as the Bad Check Committee,
promotes trust between students and merchants in the Charlottesville community.
One aspect of this trust is the privilege, in many cases, of writing checks to
local merchants by simply showing your University of Virginia I.D. Some
merchants may also be willing to extend credit to University students (an “Honor
Debt”). The Community Relations Committee provides a means for merchants to
elect to contact the Committee, rather than the police, when a student bounces a
check or fails to repay an Honor Debt. In this way, the Community Relations
Committee may act as an intermediary between the student and the merchant, thus
promoting the continuation of a relationship of trust.
Students, however, should be aware that bouncing checks and failing to repay
Honor Debts can be costly. The Community Relations Committee, through the Office
of the Dean of Students, has the power to suspend students who fail to make
restitution for their bad checks and/or their Honor Debts in a timely manner.
Students who have willfully written a bad check or failed to satisfy an Honor
Debt may be referred to the Honor Committee for investigation and possible Honor
Reporting an Honor Offense
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If you suspect that an Honor offense may have been committed, you should
contact an Honor Advisor immediately, at (434) 924-7602.