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The Honor System has been a defining dimension of life at the University for more than 170 years. Under the Honor System, University students have pledged to act honorably; that is, 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 commit themselves to a community with this 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 composed entirely of students.
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 and 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 System does not exist merely to punish students who commit Honor offenses; rather, its purpose is to promote and maintain a community where students can rely on each other to act honestly.
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 the 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 of honor.
Honor Committee and Process: A Broad Overview
Anyone can report an alleged Honor offense by calling an Honor Advisor or Committee member.
Students who believe they may have committed an Honor offense can admit to that offense and make amends without suffering the penalty of expulsion by filing a Conscientious Retraction (CR). A CR can only be filed before a student has any reason to believe he or she may be under suspicion for committing the offense. Once reported, a student may seek to make amends by filing an Informed Retraction (IR). The cornerstones of the IR are the decisions by the submitting student to take responsibility for his or her alleged Honor offense and to make amends therefor, both by admitting such alleged Honor offense to all affected parties and by taking a two-semester leave of absence from the University community.
If a reported student is ineligible for or declines to request an IR, the Committee assigns two trained Honor Investigators to fully investigate the alleged Honor offense. After the investigation is completed, the evidence is presented to a panel of three Committee members who 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 may request an Honor Hearing. If a student requests a Hearing, he or she will have the opportunity to present evidence and witnesses in his or her defense to a panel of students. If an accused student does not request an Honor Hearing, or requests a Hearing but does not attend it, such student will be deemed to have “left admitting guilt” (or to have “LAGGED”), whether or not such an admission is expressly made.
If a student fails to cooperate with the Honor process sufficient to establish ongoing communication about his or her case, the Committee may impose a registration block (barring further registration) and/or a transcript hold (resulting in the denial of transcript requests) 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.
Barring any successful appeals, an accused student who is convicted of an Honor offense (or is deemed to have LAGGED) will be permanently dismissed from the University and will not be entitled to receive or hold a degree from the University of Virginia. The permanent notation “enrollment discontinued” will be placed on the student’s transcript. If a student is found guilty of an Honor offense (or is deemed to have LAGGED) 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 and Constitution (as they may be amended or updated from time to time), are available directly from the Honor Committee and also may be viewed online. While these documents describe, among other things, the organization and procedures of the Honor System, they are not meant to be exhaustive or to 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 and Constitution, or any aspect of Honor Committee practice or procedure, should be addressed directly to the Honor Committee (434-924-7602) or through its website at http://honor.virginia.edu.
The Honor Committee is responsible for the overall administration of the Honor System. The committee is composed of two representatives from each of the 12 schools of the University with the exception of the College of Arts & Sciences, which has five representatives. The committee elects a Chair, Vice Chair for Hearings, Vice Chair for Investigations, Vice Chair for Education, and a Vice Chair for Community Relations from among its members. Honor Committee members are elected each spring by the student body.
The Honor Committee selects student Support Officers each year who are responsible for various aspects of the Honor System. Support Officers advise students and reporters involved in Honor cases; conduct investigations; assist with hearings; and disseminate information about the Honor System. The Honor Committee selects Support Officers each fall through an interview and examination process.
In 1990, the student body reaffirmed a 1980 referendum to allow randomly selected students to serve as panelists in Honor Hearings. It is the right of the accused to be judged by a panel of peers; therefore, students are called upon to serve as panelists to help determine the guilt or innocence of an accused student. To ensure that the hearing process remains as equitable and expedient as possible, students are obligated to respond to the Panelist notification emails forwarded by the Honor Committee. Once secured as a Panelist, students are expected to appear on the designated Hearing 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 University Judiciary Committee. By devoting one day to sitting as a Panelist in an Honor Hearing, students help to guarantee that the Honor System remains a vital and responsive aspect of University life. Honor Hearings will generally last one full day. The Hearing Chair (an Honor Committee member) provides knowledge of Honor Committee practice and procedure and experience in conducting Honor Hearings.
If a student knowingly commits a significant act of lying, cheating, or stealing, he or she breaches the trust of the entire community. Students convicted of an Honor offense, or students who are deemed to have LAGGED, are permanently dismissed from the University. Graduates found guilty of an Honor offense, or who are deemed to have LAGGED, 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.
Reporting an Honor Offense
If you suspect that an Honor offense may have been committed, you should contact an Honor Advisor or an Honor Committee member immediately by calling 434-924-7602 or visiting room 468 in Newcomb Hall. Discussing the matter with an Honor Advisor or Committee Representative is confidential and does not bind you to initiate an Honor case.
Notices and other significant correspondence from the Honor Committee shall be delivered to students at their respective “Primary Email Address,” as outlined in Email as Official Means of University Communication with Students section of The Record. Pursuant to this section, the “Primary Email Address” is the address to which the University sends official email notifications, formatted as “computingID@virginia.edu.” Students are expected to check this email account regularly and are responsible for any consequences resulting from failure to check this account. Except as specifically otherwise provided, the Primary Email Address shall be deemed to be effective notice when sent, whether or not the recipient actually opens and/or reads the notice.