“This is really a once-in-a-blue-moon opportunity,” said Alex Flagstaff, a co-chair of the Honor Council, referring to the student body’s chance to vote on a new Honor Code, a highly influential and significant document for the students of Colorado College.
But the opportunity the students have had the past few days is even more rare than this astrological phenomenon. While a blue moon occurs every few years, the legal documents of the Honor Council have not been changed in 66 years.
This long period without a thorough revision has left both the Constitution of the Honor System and the Bylaws of the Honor Council disorganized after years of inconsistent amendments and revisions.
Some of the discrepancies found have proven to be a legal liability for the council, prompting this complete rewriting of the documents.
Students are currently placed in a historical position as they vote for to approve the first fully revised constitution since the beginning of the council in 1948.
After two and a half years, over 100 hours of work, and around 16 drafts drawn up by various small committees of honor council members, the new constitution, to be officially referred to as the Honor Code, is the first step in the process of the complete revision of the literature of the Honor Council.
The 32 members of the Honor Council unanimously voted in favor of the revised constitution and following a careful review by the school’s legal counsel, it has been released to student vote for three days beginning Wednesday, April 30.
The new code outlines the purpose of the Honor Council along with student responsibilities and potential consequences. If it receives a majority of votes in approval, the new constitution will only differ from the old only in length, language, and minor procedural changes.
“It’s mostly so the code can be accessible, more direct, and more understandable for students,” Mia Buckmiller, a current co-chair of the Honor Council, said.
As the constitution was subjected to years of minor revisions and additions, it naturally became disordered and confusing.
“Both [documents] had apparently developed over the course of many years, with many different authors, amendments, revisions, and so forth,” said Dennis McEnnerney, faculty advisor to the Honor Council since 2011. “As a result, both documents were very long and difficult to decipher, and they were contradictory at points.”
During one Honor Council investigation in 2011 involving unusual circumstances, Claire McKeever, co-chair of the Council at the time, was the first to bring these conflicting details to the attention of McEnnerney.
“In an effort to follow the procedures, she realized that there were contradictory accounts of proper procedure in the governing documents,” McEnnerney said.
This is when McKeever decided that the code needed to be thoroughly reviewed, a process that was continued by various members of the honor council in the ensuing years.
As they were in the midst of this procedure, the Honor Council was again confronted with issues of inconsistency when, in the summer of 2011, the parents of a student under investigation hired attorneys to look at their son’s case and ultimately threatened to sue the college.
“It became very clear that the College was vulnerable to lawsuits given that the governing documents contained a number of inconsistencies and that the overall procedures had not been thought through carefully for many years,” McEnnerney said.
The proposed revision plans turned into a complete rework of the constitution and by-laws.
“I think what this is doing is embracing the code and giving it new life when it faced a particularly troubled future,” Langstaff said.
Clarification was deemed necessary in order to avoid more legal issues; however, other changes were also made to the constitution in order to make it more accessible to the student body.
The new document was shortened from 16 pages to only four pages, removing the particularly daunting legal jargon and omitting unnecessary clauses, including that of inadvertency.
The inadvertency clause addresses students that inadvertently disobey the honor code and do not gain any advantage in the class as a result. It allows the council to recommend a less severe punishment than what would be awarded if they were found guilty.
According to Buckmiller and Langstaff, this clause is unclear and making a decision of that nature is difficult and could not be enforced consistently, since you cannot positively know anyone’s intention.
Other than this, under the new code, the Honor Council will operate much the same.
When someone is found to be guilty, the council will recommend the teacher award the student No Credit in the class, with the potential of more severe consequences of suspension or dismissal if it is the student’s second offense or exhibits a “blatant disregard” of the Honor Code.
In this shortened code, they have omitted much of the language on the specific procedures of the Honor System, originally scattered throughout both the constitution and by-laws.
Instead, this information will be found in two separate manuals, approved by Honor Council vote only. One manual will outline the investigation processes and the other will explain the governance and character of the Honor Council.
“The main thing is just making sure every student understands the Honor Code, that they know they are bound to it, and what the consequences are for breaking it,” Buckmiller said, hoping the new literature will ultimately provide transparency of the honor council, allowing for students to hold them accountable to their policies as well.
Additionally, the Honor Council plans to institute a policy requiring the Honor System to be reviewed each year.
Each spring semester, there will be both an internal review by Honor Council members and an external town hall type event in order to make small changes to the code as needed, keeping it up-to-date.
There is hope that next year this new code will result in a decrease in violations as student understanding of the Honor System increases, according to Buckmiller and Langstaff.
Today is the last day for students to cast their vote through the online ballot sent to student emails.
“We want the percentage of students voting to represent the school. This is going to apply to every student,” Buckmiller said. “It’s a twofold thing. We want a huge turnout to show support, but we also want [students] to be educated.”