Honor Council overwhelmed, understaffed

The Honor Council deals with allegations of cheating submitted by students and faculty by holding hearings and then making decisions based on the testimony. 

However, one student has been left frustrated by continual delays in the Honor Council process. 

The student submitted their claim in mid September last semester and was assured that their case would be done and over with by the end of the semester. The student didn’t hear back about the status of the case until early this semester.

“Last week on Tuesday night [Jan. 14] I got an email saying the hearing was supposed to be this last Saturday. Friday night at 11:31 p.m., I got another email saying that somebody had informed them that they wouldn’t be able to make the hearing and that it would be postponed indefinitely. So I have no idea when anything is supposed to continue or if it’s going to,” the student said. 

The student expressed frustration with the further delay in the process.

“Why was I given no contact, no notice of anything? I was given a four day notice of the initial hearing and I was given less than a twelve hour notice of the delay or that it was going to have to be moved,” the student said. 

The student had originally thought that the case had gotten thrown out as they hadn’t heard back. 

“I know I’m not the first one that this has happened to. I know several people personally who they filed last year, as in the last academic year, and they’re still waiting or it keeps getting drawn out. They might, I don’t really have high hopes that this will ever get done before I graduate,” the student said.

This student feels as if the university is not upholding their values of honor because of the delays.

“We’re taught coming in that Valpo values integrity above anything else, it’s almost a golden rule, or the golden standard. But as soon as somebody disobeys it just gets swept underneath the rug and nothing ever gets done about it,” the student said. 

Overall the student is frustrated with the continual delays in their case.

“I guess it’s just frustrating to be told that if you see something and you don’t report it and then it’s found out that you knew you get punished as well because you fee, obligated to say something but then you get treated like this where you’re going months without hearing anything about whether you’re going to go to a hearing or not,” the student said. 

Honor Council Faculty Advisor Danielle Lavin-Loucks explained what she believes to be several possible reasons for delays in the resolution of cases. 

One reason for the delay she mentioned was the larger than normal case load of sixty-eight cases that were reported last semester, twelve of which were during finals. 

Lavin-Loucks believes the biggest reason for the delay is the time it takes for investigators to meet with all parties in the case. Each case submitted to the Honor Council gets assigned an investigator who meets first with the accuser to hear their side of the story and then with the accused student. 

“For example if an investigator reaches out and it takes two weeks to find a time when everyone can meet, because everybody’s busy, then that pushes it back because they have to meet with all of the parties before we can hold a hearing,” Lavin-Loucks said. 

She also cited examples of faculty and students who responded that they will be out of town when the hearing was to take place. 

“Given how the semesters are structured a delay of one or two weeks can end up delaying it more than that because the subsequent hearings are already scheduled and so to try to maneuver those around and change up the entire schedule then becomes problematic,” Lavin-Loucks said.

Lavin-Loucks also feels there is an issue with students responding to their messages for scheduling hearings and meetings in a timely manner that cause delays. 

“Another reason for delays is just that we don’t have nearly as many student members as we would like to have for the honor council and especially in the investigator positions,” Lavin-Loucks said. “The investigator positions require a lot larger time commitment and so we tend to have difficulty getting enough people who will serve as investigators.”

The Honor Council is working on recruiting new members to help clear cases faster. 

Lavin-Loucks believes that some cases fall at odd times causing delays in the process. For instance, if something is submitted during finals during the spring semester, it holds over until the fall semester.

Lavin-Loucks claims that no cases get thrown out. If someone pleads guilty, no hearing is held and they just accept the standard consequence for their offense. If the accuser doesn’t show up, without previously providing a response that they couldn't come to the hearing notice, the case is dismissed. An accuser can also retract their case, leading to no trial being held.

She would like to assure students who submitted complaints that they are working on fixing the delays, which was better than it as several years ago.

“We would love for things to be handled more expeditiously and we’ve been really trying to get cases cleared but some of the delays are somewhat in inevitable due to scheduling conflicts with mostly kind of the parties to the hearing,” Lavin-Loucks said. 

She hopes more students getting involved will fix the delays people are experiencing. 

“I think when students don’t necessarily support the honor code and the honor council the system then won’t work like it’s intended to so then the more support we have from students who are willing to become a part of it, I think the better the system is for everyone and short of that we won’t have a system unless the students are the ones who are leading it,” Lavin-Loucks said. 

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