By Jeremy O’Neill
One of Sewanee’s oldest and most sacred traditions will see some changes next academic year, as students voted in favor of both proposed amendments to The Honor Code. According to Honor Council Chair elect Alexa Fults (C’21), the amendments were approved by Vice-Chancellor John McCardell on April 18 to be enacted at the beginning of the Advent 2019 semester.
The first proposed change will impact future amendments. Currently, all proposed amendments must be submitted by members of the Honor Council and require a two-thirds majority vote from the voting population with final approval of the Vice-Chancellor. The proposed revision would open up suggestions to all students and student organizations, who would submit recommendations through the Student Government Association, with the goal of increasing communication between the council and student organizations, as well as opening up dialogue and student involvement with regards to the actual contents of the code.
The second proposed change addresses a recurring complaint amongst the student body, specifically that a full suspension from school for one to two semesters is excessively harsh for minor violations. Under the proposed revision an alternative penalty for plagiarism infractions will be to fail the class in question without guaranteed suspension, depending upon the severity of the incident.
“We believe that there are some circumstances–although rare–for which one semester is still too steep,” Vice-Chair of the Honor Council, Margaret Dupree (C’19) clarified about the change. “There must still be a penalty for violating the Honor Code, but there are times where suspension does little in teaching the offender about honor and instead does more harm than good.”
According to Fults, the second amendment does not eliminate the possibility of suspension, but allows the Council to grant probation with a failing grade after an admission of guilt. “This will decrease the number of appeals filed with the [Vice-Chancellor] and will allow more of the decision-making process to be in the hands of students.”
“Honor is ‘both an ideal and an obligation,’” said Fults, “and we know what Honor is not, but exactly what Honor is, that is a concept we have to work together to define overtime. Times and minds will change, and our view of Honor may evolve along the way. What I know for certain now that these amendments have passed and been approved, is that we can find comfort in knowing that the Code is solely ours, ours to write and to uphold and to change. This is what it was intended to be, and now more so than ever, we can live together in unity, confident in the Code that we all pledge to uphold.”