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Honor Board & Student Conduct

The Honor Code

We at Washington College strive to maintain an environment in which learning and growth flourish through individuals’ endeavors and honest intellectual exchanges both in and out of the classroom. To maintain such an environment, each member of the community pledges to respect the ideas, well being, and property of others. Thus, each member of the Washington College community abides by its Honor Code.

The Spirit of the Honor Code

The Washington College Honor Code was established by vote of the faculty and students in 1976. In 1987 the policy was studied and reaffirmed, and in 1994, it was redrafted to reflect student and faculty sentiment that a single code should address both academic and social conduct.

The Washington College Honor Code sets standards for the entire College community. The intention of the Honor Code is to encourage honest academic achievement and the highest standard of social conduct in all members of the institution. Those who agree to this honor system promise to uphold it and abide by it. All students are required to sign the Honor Code upon enrollment at Washington College, signifying that they have read and understood the Honor Code, that they are willing to abide by its principles, and that they understand the penalties they may incur if they violate the Code.

In addition, students are required to write the following statement, with their signature, on all academic assignments, verifying that they have completed the assignment in accordance with the Honor Code:

I pledge my word of honor that I have abided by the Washington College Honor Code while completing this assignment.

Honor Board Membership

Who is on the Honor Board?

There are nine students and six faculty members on the Honor Board. At any given hearing, only three students and two faculty members are present. In addition a representative from the student affairs office (the associate vice president or designee), and a representative from the provost’s office (either the faculty coordinator of academic integrity or the associate provost or designee) work with the Honor Board as administrators and attend hearings in a non-voting capacity.

How are student members of the Honor Board chosen?

Student members are selected by the SGA Review Board each year after an application and interview process. Most members are selected in April for the following year although a limited number of slots are available in the fall for first-year students and those students who studied abroad the spring semester.

How are faculty members of the Honor Board chosen?

Faculty members are voted on to the Honor Board by their fellow faculty members after being nominated through the Service and Scholarship Committee. Faculty members serve on the Honor Board as they do on other committees, for a three-year term. The faculty vice-chair is selected to one-year terms by vote of the other faculty members on the Honor Board.

How are Honor Board members trained?

All new members of the Honor Board receive a manual and go through training to prepare them and give them the necessary skills for serving on the Board. Board members also attend monthly meetings to discuss recent cases and other issues relevant to student conduct on campus.

Reporting Honor Code Violations

Who do I report violations of the Honor Code to?

In many cases, the nature of the incident results in immediate notification because a Public Safety officer is present. However, in other instances, possible social violations of the Honor Code can be reported to either Public Safety or the Dean of Students Office. These two offices work together to investigate any allegations and collect relevant information about the incident. Possible academic violations of the Honor Code should be reported to the associate provost or the faculty coordinator for academic integrity.

Can I make an anonymous report of a violation of the Honor Code?

It is extremely difficult to determine the validity of an anonymous report and just as difficult to investigate allegations if the person reporting does not identify him or herself. To the extent possible, the associate provost’s office (for academic cases) and the student affairs office (for social cases) will maintain confidentiality. However, in many cases, the person reporting has first-hand information about the violation and, at the very least, would be expected to complete a signed witness statement. They may also be requested to appear at an Honor Board hearing in order to make a statement and answer questions from the panel. If a student has a serious concern about his or her safety as a result of reporting an incident, they should communicate that to the person they are reporting so appropriate action can be taken.

Honor Board Hearing Procedures

How is it decided if a social case is referred to the Honor Board?

Several factors are involved in a social case being referred to the Honor Board. In cases of a serious violation of the Honor Code as well as incidents where a student has shown a pattern of conduct that violates College policy, there is a stronger likelihood that the case will be referred to the Honor Board for a hearing. The Honor Board chair and vice chair work with the associate vice president to make decisions about which social violation cases should be referred for a hearing. For violations that are not referred for a hearing, the student respondent still has the opportunity to request an Honor Board hearing.

How is it decided if an academic case goes to the Honor Board?

Cases of academic dishonesty are reported by faculty members to the faculty coordinator of academic integrity. If the student in question has a prior violation of the Honor Code, then the case is automatically referred to the Honor Board. If the case is a first offense and the student accepts responsibility for the offense then the case is not referred to the Honor Board, unless the faculty member, in consultation with the faculty coordinator and the chair and vice chair of the Honor Board, decides to refer the case to the Honor Board on the grounds of the seriousness of the offense. If the case is a first offense and the student does not accept responsibility for the offense, then the student must request that the Honor Board hear the case. In either case the faculty member in whose course the offense occurred determines the course-related sanction for the offense.

What if a violation occurs off campus? Can the Honor Board hear cases of off-campus violations?

A student’s behavior, even if it occurs off campus, can be reviewed through the student conduct system. The Honor Code specifically prohibits violations of local, state, or federal statutes and the jurisdiction of the student conduct system covers conduct that occurs both on and off campus.

Are sexual assault cases heard by the Honor Board?

There is a subset of the Honor Board that hears alleged sexual misconduct violations. The sexual misconduct hearing board hears cases of sexual assault as well as other sexual misconduct. A panel of the sexual misconduct hearing board consists of two students and one faculty member with at least one member of each gender represented on the panel. Members of this panel go through an additional training process to prepare them for these types of hearings.

What exactly happens at an Honor Board hearing?

An Honor Board hearing consists, at a minimum, of the respondent making a statement to the panel (which normally consists of three students and two faculty members); a questioning period where the members of the panel attempt to collect all of the relevant information; and a closing statement by the respondent. In many cases, there may also be case witnesses who speak to panel. A sample honor board hearing agenda can be found at: http://studentlife.washcoll.edu/honorcode.php. Click on the link to information for students called before the Honor Board to find a sample agenda.

Is an Honor Board hearing public?

No. Hearings are restricted only to the members of the board hearing the case, the student respondent, an advisor to the student respondent, if wanted, and any case witnesses necessary to appropriately review all of the information. The student respondent may bring an advisor who does not participate in the hearing but can offer support and guidance throughout the hearing. The advisor must be a member of the Washington College community (faculty, staff, student).

How are decisions reached by the Honor Board?

The Honor Board reaches most decisions by consensus. On the rare occasion when a vote becomes necessary, at least four of the five panelists must vote for responsibility and sanction. The Honor Board uses the standard of “more likely than not” in determining responsibility. In other words, if the information presented at the hearing leads a panelist to believe that it is more likely that the student respondent committed the violation than not, he/she will vote for responsibility.

What kind of sanctions can the Honor Board impose?

If the Honor Board finds a student responsible for violations of College policy, the sanctions can range from a simple warning, all the way up to expulsion for very serious offenses. Some common sanctions include: probation, community service, and reflection papers. The Honor Board makes every attempt to have sanctions be meaningful not only for the student respondent, but also for the community. Honor Board sanctions are based on the goal of helping the student respondent learn and to have that student take an active role in repairing his or her relationship with the campus community.

Post-Hearing Procedures

Are the outcomes of Honor Board hearings released to the campus community?

Honor Board hearing outcomes are only released to the student respondent and, in some cases, the victim if the violation was an act of violence. Additionally, certain faculty or staff members may be notified of the outcome of a hearing if they have a legitimate educational interest in the outcome. For instance, if a student is sanctioned and removed from his or her on-campus job, the supervisor of that job would be notified of the sanction. Honor Board members sign a confidentiality agreement, affirming that they understand they must keep Honor Board case information confidential and may not share it with anyone. Only the administrators who work with the Honor Board may communicate Honor Board decisions to other persons and then, only do so when necessary.

Are parents or guardians notified?

Normally, the results of an Honor Board hearing are sent to the student’s parents or guardians. However, the student affairs and provost’s office work with the student and encourage him/her to disclose his/her involvement in a hearing prior to the hearing. In some rare exceptions, after careful consultation with the student, the student affairs or provost’s office could choose not to notify the student’s parent or guardian, particularly if the sanction does not include separation from the College.

What are the consequences for varsity athletes who have an Honor Board hearing?

Results of the outcome of a hearing involving a respondent who is a varsity student-athlete are reported to the athletic department. The athletic department has its own committee which may also impose its own sanctions related to the student-athlete’s participation in varsity athletics.

Do the results of an Honor Board hearing stay on a student’s record?

If a student is found responsible by the Honor Board for a violation of College policy, the result of the hearing, as well as any other information relevant to the hearing or the incident that precipitated the hearing (eg. an incident report, witness statements, etc.) are kept in the student’s file in the Student Affairs office (NOT on the student’s transcript kept by the registrar’s office). Those documents are part of a student’s education record and remain there until the record is destroyed.

Can a student appeal a decision of the Honor Board?

Yes. A student can appeal either the finding of responsibility or the sanction of a hearing if he or she is found responsible. Students found responsible for social violations can appeal to the Vice President of Student Affairs and students found responsible for academic violations can appeal to the Provost. Appeals of Honor Board decisions must be submitted within five business days of notification of the outcome.