New Honor Board chair seeks to establish clarity between the student body and board efforts

By Victoria Gill-Gomez

News Editor

On Thursday, Oct. 29, the Student Government Association announced senior William Reid as the new Honor Board chair.

“I’m super excited to begin my work in this new role on campus,” Reid said. “I hope to make the campus proud to have me as Honor Board Chair, and I will do my best to serve my campus as well.”

Reid first got involved with the Honor Board when he transferred to Washington College in his sophomore year, applied to be a panelist, and was accepted to the position.

Working alongside other student panelists, who quickly became his close friends, Reid said his peers taught him a new level of professionalism.

“I remember during my first hearing I was so excited that I was typing so rapidly on my keyboard taking notes. My friend on the panel turned to me after the hearing and said something like, “Will, what the heck? I’m pretty sure you scared that student.” It was so mortifying to realize that, but I can look back on that moment now and see how much I’ve grown,” Reid said.

Having served over two years as a panelist, Reid said, “this was an incredibly rewarding process for me.”

Reid also serves as a Senator within the SGA. According to SGA President and senior Elizabeth Lilly, who also served as Honor Board chair in the past, “this means that Reid is experienced with both sides of the Honor Board Chair position — the role of leading the Judicial Branch and the role of serving on the Review Board.”

“Not only has he demonstrated knowledge and skill during hearings and throughout the judicial review process, but he also has a great passion for justice and equity and shows compassion for his fellow students,” Lilly said. “This encapsulates the spirit of the Honor Code and we are confident that he will successfully contribute to a community of respect and safety while serving in this position.”

According to Reid, he was so enthralled and familiar with the work and the Honor Board system that when the SGA sent out a campus email on Friday, Oct. 23 about the open position, he decided to apply. 

The application process is reviewed by the SGA Review Board, which consists of the president, parliamentarian, financial controller, outgoing Honor Board chair, and speaker of the Senate. According to the SGA Constitution Article III, Section D, if this position opens up mid-year, the remaining Review Board members reserve the right to appoint a new chair. 

Because the Honor Board chair is an important position, Lilly said she wanted this process to be as thorough as possible so both an application and interview would balance this efficiency.

The Review Board included Lilly; Parliamentarian and junior Kat DeSantis; Speaker of the Senate and junior Josh Gastineau; and Vice President and junior Emilee Daniel sat as a supplementary voice.

According to Lilly, each position has its own specific responsibilities, but collectively as a Review Board, they are responsible for all hiring decisions regarding initiating larger SGA discussions, acting as liaisons to many members of College faculty and staff, and signing their support to different pieces of legislation.  

“Having previously been Honor Board chair, I was intimately aware of the difficulties associated with this position and how different responsibilities might look at this time of year and in the current virtual environment,” Lilly said. “My experience helped me go deeper than what’s on paper to understand the nuanced skills and experiences which will help someone be truly successful in this position.”

As Honor Board chair, Reid will meet weekly with Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Candace Wannamaker, Associate Professor of Computer Science and Chair of Math and Computer Science Dr. Shaun Ramsey, and Dean of Students Greg Krikorian to review potential social violations of the Honor Code. 

Dr. Ramsey, who serves as Honor Board vice-chair, said there are different cenarios that bring cases to the Honor Board such asacademic violations and social violations. 

Academic violations first go through a Faculty Coordinator of Academic Integrity before filtering to the Honor Board.

Social violations go through the student conduct office. They meet weekly to discuss a variety of topics, including things like when to schedule hearings or how to tackle anything new that may come up.

Dr. Ramsey began his position as Honor Board vice-chair over the summer and has only known the Board in its online processes function.

“Associate Professor and Associate Department Chair of Biology Dr. [Aaron] Krochmal, as the academic chair of the Honor Board, informs me of any potential academic violations that he believes may necessitate an Honor Board hearing. I also will be keeping in frequent contact with my panelists to ensure schedules work and access to case materials are granted,” Reid said.

Reid said that there are often misconceptions about the Honor Board that have become more apparent as he goes back and forth between being a student and peer, and being the chair.

For instance, not every case that violates the Honor Code is brought before the Honor Board. According to the College website, cases are determined to be seen by the Honor Board depending upon a variety of factors including previous violations and the severity of the violation. 

The chair’s voice plays a part in that decision. 

Students should be aware that coming before the Honor Board does not mean they are in trouble. Reid said he has encountered many peers who are afraid of the possibility of suspension or expulsion from this misconception. 

“I think in movies and stories we always hear about extreme [Honor Board] situations where ‘you screwed up once’ and now you can never come back to our school. We do our best to avoid such an extreme and to give time for parties to grow where possible,” Dr. Ramsey said.

“The Honor Board is not built around crime and punishment but more of a learning experience for students,” Reid said. “I’m someone who has personally benefited from this type of system. I made a lot of mistakes when I was younger, and if I didn’t have the privilege of a second chance or redemption, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I want to offer that same privilege to students. I want them to know their case will be fairly heard and appropriately discussed among their peers, faculty, and staff.”

“I think one thing that I love about the general policy around [Honor Board] here at WC is that we strive to use it for instruction and the protection of all students. For us, it is a tool for education and rehabilitation and not as a punitive tool. While [the Honor Board] can — and does — suspend and expel students when it must, they often spend much of their time in deliberations considering how to rehabilitate students who might be found in violation,” Dr. Ramsey said.

The Honor Board handbook, which can be found on the College website, describes Dr. Ramsey’s position as a liaison between faculty and the Honor Board. He said he sees his position as “multi-pronged,” serving as a guiding force for new faculty that find themselves in board hearings. 

“I love committee work that directly interfaces with students. As a faculty member, we all have duties to help keep the College running through a variety of service. Honor Board is one of those. [Honor Board] is special because it provides an opportunity for me to find ways to provide more education for students — for both those in cases and those presiding over cases,” Dr. Ramsey said.

Now Honor Board chair, the biggest difference from being a panelist is that Reid is no longer a voting member. In his position, he will run every meeting and be a guide, advising the panelists. He said he can still ask questions, but his main responsibility is to keep the hearing on track. 

While the process has transitioned to a Zoom format for social distancing, it has been mostly the same, the board members have utilized more of the digital aspects of online hearings. 

This includes using the virtual waiting room throughout the hearing for the respondent, claimants, and witnesses — which essentially acts the same as the waiting room in the Eugene B. Casey Academic Center — using the hand-raising function in Zoom, or even just physically raising one’s hand because it is harder to read a room from a screen.

Regardless of the awkwardness of having to repeat questions or statements because of internet connection issues, Reid said he wants to try and establish more transparency between the board and the student body. 

According to Lilly, due to the current online situation for the spring semester, the Honor Board and SGA are looking forward to initiatives centered around respect online and strategies to address cyberbullying as well as campaigns enforcing safe and healthy behaviors during a national pandemic.

“I hope to play a large part in [keeping] those enforced on campus. Many students want to get back on campus, but it is up to those same students, including myself, to prioritize the safety of ourselves and others once we return,” Reid said.

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