Honor Principle

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Intro

The honor process at Reed College is both unique and effective in enforcing and inculcating a respect for the community and for the honor principle itself. Because the honor principle is not simply a set of statutes that need to be enforced in a black or white manner, the honor process is similarly multifaceted. In fact, the honor principle’s focus on self-governance and community is mirrored in the honor process. Members of the community are encouraged and exhorted to engage one another and the community at large with respect to honor issues. The system works best when we all fulfill our duties to honor and assume our roles in the honor process as informed and responsible members of the community.

Informal Mediation

Due to the honor principle’s emphasis on community responsibility, the first step in addressing most honor principle issues is through informal mediation. Informal mediation only includes the parties involved in the dispute. It can be as simple as alerting a roommate over coffee that her music is too loud; conversely, it could involve an extended conversation in a neutral setting regarding an inappropriate comment in class. Reed emphasizes advocacy through the honor principle. When someone’s actions discomfort you, the honor principle asks that you approach him and express your concerns. The goal of informal mediation is not to place blame or vent anger; rather it is to raise awareness of a possible honor violation and to come to a decision regarding the best way to diffuse the conflict.

Formal Mediation

If informal mediation is unsuccessful, or the parties involved do not feel comfortable approaching one another one-on-one, the issue goes to formal mediation. Formal mediation can be requested by submitting a mediation request form (found on the Honor Council Office door, GCC 033A). Once a mediation request form is submitted the Chair of Mediation Subcommittee will contact the people involved in the dispute and find a mutually agreeable time and location for the mediation. The parties involved will also have the ability to review a list of available trained mediators (including members of the student body, faculty and staff) and indicate any that are not acceptable to ensure impartiality and fairness. Formal mediation is completely confidential (see the Honor Council Code for details). No one is required to accept a request for mediation or to agree upon any demands requested in mediation. The parties will meet in a neutral location with the mediator. The mediator will facilitate discussion among the disputants. The goal of mediation, both formal and informal, is not to punish or ascribe penalties for perceived violations, but to sort out issues among members of the community so that conflicts do not escalate.

Honor Case

When mediation fails, or the offense cannot be mediated (e.g. cases of alleged sexual assault, violence or academic misconduct), the issue becomes an honor case. If those implicated of an honor violation are students, the nature of the conflict is not sexual misconduct and school is in session the case goes before the J-board, a group of twelve students appointed by the Senate. The J-board hears the case and makes a recommendation to the President of the College, who can choose whether or not to accept it. J-board hearings are confidential to all involved, including witnesses. Cases can be brought against a student or students on behalf of one student, many students, faculty or staff members, or the community itself. The J-board code specifies procedures for those involved. However, a member of the Judicial Board, who does not hear the case, will also act as a procedural aide during an honor case, ensuring that guidelines are clear to all. The goal of the honor case is both to determine the injury to the individual(s) involved, and to remedy the situation for the well-being of the community and in light of community notions of honor.

Appeals and Appeals Board

After an honor case is decided, either party may decide to appeal the decision through the Appeals Board. This board is comprised of students, faculty and staff. There are limited grounds for an appeal. Either disputant party may feel that the sanctions imposed were inappropriately harsh or relaxed, the board made a procedural error relevant to the finding and subsequent decision in the case (eg biased members failed to recuse themselves; there was inadequate or inaccurate witness testimony, etc); finally, new facts came to light that could have affected the result of the proceedings. The procedure for appeals is outlined in detail in Section 7 of the J-Board code.

Special Cases (Academic Dishonesty)

The honor process works differently when Academic dishonesty is involved. Because the offense is of such a serious nature and involves a student and a faculty member, it is subject to a different series of steps. First, it is important to understand what actually happened. The instructor can either discuss the purported dishonesty with the student, and then proceed to file an Academic Misconduct Report with the Judicial Board or bypass speaking to the student and file an official report. If the student and instructor cannot agree on what took place, they may seek formal mediation to help determine the facts. If formal mediation yields no clear consensus on what transpired, then the issue goes straight to the Judicial Board.

If the student and instructor agree on the facts, and the instructor feels that this is an initial offense, or otherwise minor, it goes to a panel consisting of the Dean of Students Services, a faculty member of the Administration Committee, and a member of the J-Board. This panel decides by majority vote whether or not the offense is indeed appropriately minor or first-time. If they approve the recommendation of the faculty member, then the Dean of Student Services will keep the information on file, but it will be unavailable to anyone else, and can only be used again in the event of another instance of academic dishonesty by the student. If the student and instructor agree on the facts, but the violation is not minor or is a repeat offense, the case goes before the J-Board.

If there is no consensus on whether or not academic dishonesty occurs (ie, the student does not agree to the charge), the student can either sign the Academic Misconduct Report filled out by the instructor or submit a statement of his own. The information is forwarded to the J-Board, who will then try the case and make a recommendation to the President. The case will be heard with respect to the standards of academic dishonesty in the discipline at issue. Consequently, if there is supposed cheating on a lab report of Population Biology, various members of the biology department may testify as to what would qualify as cheating on that particular assignment of similar assignments. After the decision has been handed down, the student may appeal the decision to the Administration Committee of the Faculty.

Honor Process for Faculty and Staff

The faculty and staff have different venues through which honor issues are resolved if mediation does not work. If the conflict involves the faculty, the faculty member(s) involved may appeal to the Dean of the Faculty for a resolution to the conflict. If the conflict involves the staff, then the staff member(s) involved may appeal to Human Resources for a resolution.

Conclusion

Finally, regardless of the issue or the stage of the honor process, the Honor Council is always available to advise anyone on a completely confidential basis. They are available by e-mail or during office hours.

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