Em Flynn, a second-year Engineering student, spent the summer in Charlottesville to work on her project for the Honor Fellowship.
“My project is looking at professor-student communication from the professors’ side,” Flynn said. “I’m interviewing a lot of professors and it has a special focus on students with accommodations, so students
with SDAC [Student Disability Access Center accommodations].”
Flynn is hard of hearing and said the project arose out of experience with her accommodations getting in the way of communicating with professors. She said that if a professor writes what he or she says down, the problem can be fixed
“Professors will say something in class, and for obvious reasons, I won’t hear it, and sometimes they will write it down, sometimes they don’t,” Flynn said. “If they don’t write it down, then I’ll
have to go ask them for clarification or ask someone else for clarification. If I’m not on my game all the time, asking people all the time, then I could miss something and that could result in an Honor offense or just a
really bad grade.”
Currently, if a student takes a Contributory Mental or Medical Disorder, they must admit guilt first.
“Disability .... plays a large part in how students conduct themselves in the classroom and when they’re communicating with professors,” Flynn said. “So having to admit guilt before considering that seems fundamentally
unfair … To have that disability considered in the case, I think that would be something that would be good to change.”
Inside and outside the system, many have asked whether the system is fair for international students.
Last year, Engineering graduate student Georgina Hunt, an international student from Britain, chose an open trial and was found guilty of cheating.
After Hunt’s expulsion, some said the Honor Committee was unfair to international students, citing barriers like language and cultural norms as standing in the way of understanding the Honor Code.
“I can’t really wrap my mind around what it would mean to leave my country all together into a scary country that is so very different from ours,” said Lauren LeVan, a fourth-year College student and Asian Student
Union president. “If you’re throwing all these things like I will never lie, cheat or steal, or neither given nor received, it can get a little dicey.”
Rossin said there are many safeguards to ensure due process for and maintain the rights of reported students.
“When cases are given to us, we treat every single student incredibly fairly,” Rossin said. “If you look at just our numbers from last year, 49 reports, only three students being found guilty after that ... I believe
that the Honor internal proceedings are incredibly fair.”
LeVan said language barriers could stand in the way of international students’ understanding of the Honor system.
“Especially for international students … maybe they are fluent in English but there are certain things that they don’t completely understand, like double negatives,” LeVan said. “Language barriers create
a huge barrier in Honor offenses, [but] I’m not sure what the statistics are.”
LeVan said she believes the system can be improved by becoming more transparent.
“[My ideal Honor system is] one that’s open and transparent,” LeVan said. “I think like any democratic system, the more people that are involved in it, the more true to its constituents it would be. To integrate
Honor more into daily life and into the student body instead of seeing it like this scary, looming parent organization that may or may not be able to expel us from the school … I think would be awesome.”
Brandt Welch, a fourth-year Engineering student and Honor vice-chair for outreach , said that he believed Honor could better engage international students, and that the Committee plans to work on engagement throughout the year.
“I don't believe that there are enough international students in Honor to give a proper voice to the challenges that international students face as it relates to Honor,” Welch said in an email to The Cavalier Daily. “This
can be solved through better outreach when it comes to recruiting and continuing to make sure that Honor is a welcoming space for all students.”
Welch said he believed international students could face challenges in understanding an Honor policy, especially if they do not feel comfortable with English, putting them at a higher risk for commission of Honor offenses.
“To combat this, professors must go the extra mile to ensure that all students understand what is and is not acceptable in a particular class,” Welch said.
Tamia Walker-Atwater, a fourth-year Nursing student and Honor vice-chair for education , is also working on improving the relationship between Honor and international students.
“Last spring semester Matt [West, former Honor chair] got the idea to put together an international student handbook,” Walker-Atwater said. “One of the main foci of my campaign was to create translations of the handbook.
We hope to have the whole thing translated into five different languages by the end of this year.”
Rossin said one of his priorities for this year is outreach to international students, as well as greater representation of international students in the support officer pool and Committee.
“International students have been over-reported, just based on what I’ve seen back in my days as a [support officer],” Rossin said. “We just need to do a better job of education outreach to every single community
on Grounds and groups that have been underrepresented in the system.”
Rossin said he would be speaking at the international students’ orientation.
“The [Honor system here] is probably pretty different from what they’ve seen in the past,” Rossin said. “The Honor system is not only an incredibly Western notion of what Honor is, but also an incredibly Southern
notion. It may be a departure from what other folks think of academic integrity.”