Again, we write about the honor committee. In a few days, the Committee is Planning to begin the very first constitutional convention. This comes after a history vote last spring to change the penalty for committing an expulsion offense to a two-semester furlough. Since the announcement of this convention, however, Honor has seemed particularly disorganized – lacking on established promises, failing to communicate with the student body, and reducing the event to an unrepresentative and unelected congregation of delegates. If the Committee is truly committed to meaningful reform, it must ensure the transparency and accessibility of this process. This convention—along with the committee that plans to host it—belongs to us, the student body.
Based on recent debates at Committee meetings, we don’t know who is responsible for Honor’s failure to successfully prepare for her convention. Be that as it may, the fact remains that the convention is imminent, and this shortcoming reflects on the Committee as a whole. The student body was left largely in the dark. What was originally supposed to be a convention understood of all interested CIOs seems to have mysteriously turned into a closed-door affair where 30 unelected student delegates will be able to speak on behalf of over 40,000 students and faculty. We do not know why or how these delegates were chosen. We don’t even know exactly when and where the convention will take place. This secrecy and inaccessibility undermined the Faith we had originally in this committee’s dedication to meaningful reform.
Prevent special status organizations—such as the university judicial committee, student bar association, and student council—to participate in the convention is contrary to student autonomy. Denying representation from these student leaders means that the convention excludes critical perspectives. The UJC already has a multi-sanction system and could offer valuable insight into how the Committee could develop its own, for example. It is also disturbing to us that Honor seems to believe that not all students have a voice in this convention. Any member of the student body may address the Student Council during its weekly public comment period. We do not understand why the Committee did not make similar efforts to establish a space for public participation and instead chose not to involve the SSOs. We agree with Honor’s leadership that “the best things about U.Va. have always been done in community. If he really wants a constitution that serves everyone, we should all have a say in it.”
Furthermore, we find it disconcerting that the Committee expects students to buy into this process when their own members do not even do so. Representatives have consistently failed to show up for meetings this fall, resulting in a lack of quorum. It’s not new problem. The students have no reason to believe that this convention will be productive if the Committee meetings have not been.
The student body will not vote to ratify a constitution it did not help create, and Honor has a lot of work to do to build trust and increase buy-in from students and relevant stakeholders. A constitutional convention will not destroy 180 years of institutional harm perpetuated against marginalized communities. The list of things the Committee needs to change to save our trusted community and accomplish reform is long. However, we think a decent place to start is to remember that this convention is meant to be for the student body, which has already expressed overwhelming disapproval of expulsion and the way Honor has operated for two centuries. It is clear that students are hungry for change. The Committee must respect that.
The Cavalier Daily editorial board is made up of the editor-in-chief, the managing editor, the two opinion editors, their senior associate and an opinion columnist. The council can be reached at [email protected].