Dolan: three referenda stayed will be considered by student-faculty committee in spring semester

Honor Committee would forfeit its authority if it does not follow the administration’s email

The three referenda halted by the administration will be considered by the Committee on Examinations and Standing and the Honor System Review Committee (HSRC) this coming spring semester, says Dean of College Jill Dolan in an email to The Tab. If the review results in a positive recommendation, the three referenda would advance to the full faculty for a vote at a spring meeting, she said.

Last week, an email signed by Dolan, Vice President for Campus Life Rochelle Calhoun, and Dean of Faculty Sanjeev Kulkarni sparked a social media storm as students protested the administration's unilateral decision to stay three of the four referenda that passed with overwhelming support. The email stated that the reform propositions, namely lowering the standard penalty, requiring at least two pieces of evidence, and giving professors ultimate say in the adjudication process were changes "too significant" to be implemented without faculty input.

Dolan, Calhoun, and Kulkarni took initial responsibility for making this judgment call. President Eisgruber ultimately made the decision to stay the referendums in consultation with his chief academic and student life officers, Dolan said.

"Our concern is that the proposed changes would fundamentally alter the expectations the faculty had in authorizing the establishment of the Honor System, as well as the standards and penalties the system would apply in upholding academic integrity at Princeton," Dolan said.

According to Dolan, a codified rule in the 1893 resolution that established the Honor System gives the administration the authority to make a unilateral decision.

"In that resolution, the faculty made clear that they retained ultimate authority over academic and disciplinary matters. Over more than 100 years, there have been a small number of significant changes in the Honor System, but always with the engagement and support of the faculty," Dolan said.

Despite the language of the Honor Code Constitution, Dolan emphasized that the authority over in-class academic infractions was delegated to students by the faculty. That delegation was neither irrevocable or unconditional, she said.

Dolan further explained that prior to the roll-out of the referendums, the administration had communicated with the USG about HSRC, which was charged to consider potential changes to the system. According to Dolan, she and Calhoun was already considering a review of the Honor System and other disciplinary processes and procedures.

"On numerous occasions last fall, we counseled the USG President and the chair of the Academics subcommittee to collaborate with the HSRC to consider potential changes because of the importance of broader faculty participation in the process. The USG preferred to work independently," Dolan said.

The HSRC, which will review the stayed referendum in the spring, is led by Professor Clancy Rowley ’95 and Chair of the Honor Committee Carolyn Liziewski ’18. Its members include five faculty members and five students, including Omid Abrishamchian ’18, Patrick Flanigan ’18, Elizabeth Haile ’19, Soraya Morales Nunez ’18, and Jasmine Young ’20.

The student members were suggested by the USG and the Honor Committee.

However, ultimately, the administration didn’t counsel the USG on the referenda itself when it was brought to a vote, Dolan confirmed.

"We weren’t aware that the USG sub-committee’s work would culminate in referenda until they were about to be put on the ballot.

In response to the possibility of student pressure on the Honor Committee to ignore the administration's directive, Dolan noted that the prospect may strip the committee of its authority.

"It wouldn't be a matter of ignoring the administration’s email; it would be a matter of failing to respect the basic understandings under which authority to administer the Honor System was delegated by the faculty to undergraduates," she said.

Without that respect, the Honor Committee would forfeit the authority to administer the Honor System, she added.

Dolan also pushed back against criticisms that the email is a poor reflection of the university's willingness to listen to students.

"Change simply has to be accomplished in the right way, with the appropriate voices involved in the process," she said.

The Tab will continue its coverage of the Honor Code Reform

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