Honor committee awaits decision from president

In April of last year, the Norwich University community became aware via the Noel Levitz surveys and data gathered by two blue ribbon commissions that the student body’s belief in the honor system had declined and that students felt the systems were neither consistent nor fair.

“The President received information that there are issues associated with the inconsistencies in which the way honor is applied,” said, chairman of the leadership committee of the board of trustees, Leo Brooks.

“If (this) continues we run the risk of having more and more incidents of violations and or breaches of integrity in all aspects of the university,” Brooks said. He is vice president of the National Security & Space group for the Boeing Company’s government operations in Washington D.C. He is also a retired U.S. Brigadier General who graduated from the United States Military Academy.

This first week of April, Lt. Col. Duncan Currier, the new university judicial officer, presented the decisions developed by the university’s honor system planning committee, made up of students and faculty. Only one final proposal was presented, according to a member of the committee.

The planning committee met once a week on Tuesday nights and the members of the committee were elected by each class honor committee. Each committee voted for two representatives from their class; the senior class elected one representative.

Right now, NU is waiting to hear word from the president on whether he backs the changes recommended.

The committee is sure of one change: Due to family education rights and privacy act laws, President Richard Schneider’s lawyer has determined that the university should no longer hold hearings that are open to the public.

Other changes would affect process. “The planning committee on a split lifestyle vote agreed to vote in favor of mixing Honor Committee boards to include members of the corps and civilian honor committees in a ratio of 4:3 in favor of lifestyle,” said James  Dicesare, a 20-year-old sophomore business management major from Groton, Mass.

Dicesare shared that the discussion had centered over the composition of the two committees. Two proposals were made, one for a mixed lifestyle board of adjudicating students and one for separate boards for each lifestyle.

At the time of the vote for the composition of the new system, one of the five members representing corps students had resigned and one of the seven civilian members representing civilian students was absent.

“The vote was cast. Three members of the corps voted against mixed boards and the six civilians plus one member of the corps voted for (it),” he said.

“While civilians may bring a different perspective to the rulings of the corps, it’s an entirely different system,” said Wilma Melton, a civilian freshman history major from Newbury, Vt. “If the committees do merge, both civilian and corps committee members should maintain the same standards,” she said.

Along with the mixed boards, awaiting the president’s approval is the concept of shortening academic integrity cases to only one hearing.

In prior years, the academic integrity cases consisted of two hearings: one to establish academic dishonesty and one to determine if there was intent. The change will now allow a small panel from the honor committee to establish intent during the academic dishonesty hearing conducted by the academic integrity committee.

“While I understand that any given individual is capable of discerning whether another lied, cheated, or stole, I am concerned that there is more to it than just that,”  Dicesare said.

“I believe that honor is a larger component in the life of a cadet than a civilian,” Dicesare said.

Brooks does not understand that reasoning.

“Why does that make you more honorable?” questioned Brooks, referring to being a member of NUCC. “It may make you more focused on a career in the military, it may make you want a more rigorous experience, but that doesn’t make you more honorable. When the student body sees inconsistencies, then that starts making you feel like you’re above the law. We have seen plenty of examples in history where people felt that and it has led to the downfall of many organizations,” he said.

Like Dicesare, many other students were uneasy about this change in the honor system.

“At first, I was apprehensive,” said Katherine Proffitt, a junior political science and English major from Powhatan, Va. “(But), we are one school, (and) there is one honor code,” she said.

As the rising honor training officer, Proffitt hopes to help give both lifestyles the equal training.

“If the system is changing and we’re going to incorporate both systems into one, why not as we’re training the freshman, train the civilian as well?” she said. “We’re one school, one system.”

“I believe in a joint learning process,” agreed Melton. In her opinion, “both committees should remain separate, but should be held to the same standard in order for (them) to better understand each other.”

The Board of Trustees presented their case to the president for a consistent system. “There was discussion about whether that would be one system, but we don’t mandate to the president, we recommend,” Brooks explained.

“My goal as a trustee, and all the trustees feel this way, we want to preserve the foundational underpinnings of what Alden Partridge wanted the university to be – a moral, ethical place where we are growing great leaders that are going to go on doing great things for this nation,” Brooks said.

“The only traditional change is that somebody who is not in the corps now, but is just as much a student as a corps student, is now chosen to adjudicate,” Brooks said. “If I really believe in the honor code and I believe in the system and I believe it’s fair, then applying the standards of evidence to a situation shouldn’t matter if the student is corps or civilian. The results should be the same,” he said

The successful future of the honor system is dependent upon the president’s decision based on the proposal, the cooperation of the honor committee with the change, and the support of a united student body.

“You chose a different lifestyle, you didn’t choose a different level of integrity or honor,” Brooks said.

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