Initiated in 1842, the Honor System originated as an effort to ease tensions between the faculty and the student body. Today, however, the central purpose of the Honor System is to preserve and protect a Community of Trust in which students can enjoy the freedom to develop their intellectual and personal potential.
Unlike many other institutions where student systems and disciplinary processes include administrative oversight, the Honor Committee is administered solely by students, who are responsible for all decisions and changes within the Honor System.
The 27-member committee is composed of five elected representatives from the College of Arts & Sciences, two from the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, and two elected representatives from each of the other 10 University schools. Committee members oversee Honor investigations and hearings, disseminate information to new students, and establish special programs and policies for the Honor System from year to year.
To carry out these tasks, the Committee relies on dozens of support officers drawn from the student body and trained to assist with the processing of Honor cases in one of three roles: honor advisor, honor investigator, or honor counsel. Beyond case processing, all support officers are expected to assist the Honor Committee in educating the community about the Honor System.
An Honor offense is defined as a significant act of lying, cheating, or stealing, where the student knew (or a reasonable University of Virginia student should have known) that such an act was or could have been considered an Honor offense. Three criteria determine whether an Honor offense has occurred.
Act: Was an act of lying, cheating, or stealing committed?
Knowledge: Did the student know, or should a reasonable University of Virginia student have known, that the act in question was or could have been considered lying, cheating, or stealing? (Ignorance of the scope of the Honor System is not considered a defense.)
Significance: Would open toleration of the act in question be inconsistent with the Community of Trust?
If a student’s peers find him or her guilty of committing an Honor offense, the consequence is permanent dismissal from the University. A student who is convicted of an Honor offense following graduation will generally have her or his degree revoked by the general faculty. Dismissed students may receive assistance from the vice president and chief student affairs officer as they apply to transfer to another institution.
A student who has committed a dishonorable act and wishes to make amends has two options. Before the student has reason to believe the act in question has come under suspicion by anyone, he or she may file a “Conscientious Retraction,” which, if both valid and complete, operates to exonerate the student as to the act in question. After a student has been reported to the Honor Committee, she or he may, if certain requirements are met, file an “Informed Retraction,” which allows students to take a two-semester leave of absence before recommitting to the Community of Trust. Degree candidates who file an Informed Retraction in the semester in which they graduate are not eligible to participate in school or departmental graduation ceremonies.
The Honor Committee recommends requiring all students to write out and sign a pledge on all graded work. Appended to an assignment or examination, the pledge is a signed reaffirmation of the student's commitment to academic integrity. The standard pledge reads, "On my honor as a student, I have neither given nor received aid on this examination (or assignment)."
Faculty members who suspect an Honor offense has occurred should contact an Honor advisor or the Honor Committee representative elected from their particular school; contacting an advisor or representative does not obligate the faculty member to file a formal report.
Faculty members are expected not to substitute their own sanctions for an Honor investigation. A faculty member who believes that an investigation has not been conducted properly should notify the Honor Committee or the vice chair for investigations at 434-924-7602.
Faculty members have the discretion to assign grades, or take other appropriate academic measures, regardless of the outcome of an Honor investigation. The assignment of grades and other academic measures are subject to University policies and procedures, including grade appeals.
More information specifically for faculty is available in the University of Virginia Honor System Handbook for Faculty Members and Teaching Assistants.