By Amy Rudolph
Elm Staff Writer
The reputation of Washington College’s Honor Board is one of mystery. Misconceptions are widespread, and some students may not know what the Honor Board does.
Madeline Farlow, senior, and current chairperson for the Honor Board, is aware of this negative perception.
“We really do try to help students and hear out everyone’s circumstance…[making] it personal rather than a generalization,” she said. The Honor Board hears the cases of students who are accused of violating College policy.
When asked about the reputation of the Honor Board, Vice Chair and Professor Amanda Kramer, said, “Instead of thinking of it in negative and positive terms, it is something that exists for the safety of the students, the safety of campus. It is a very important part of the campus community.”
While the Honor Board does hear cases and deliver sanctions, that is not their only purpose.
“The purpose is [that] when someone has a first incident, we want to make sure that that person comes to the Honor Board so that they understand what it is that they’ve done, how we can make this situation better, what they can be doing,” Kramer said. “It is not a situation where we call the student in and say, ‘That’s it, you’re done.’ We look at what we can do to help this student…This board is about education and making sure that these students have a solid base in their college career. We want you here and we want to help you stay here,” she said.
An additional purpose of the Honor Board is “to make sure that all of our students are safe and taken care of,” Kramer said.
The Honor Board meets to discuss student infractions, both social and academic. Associate Dean of Students and Director of Residence Life Ursula Herz represents the social side with Student Affairs. Dr. Aaron Krochmal, associate professor of biology, represents the faculty and academic interests. The Honor Board hears these violations as a way to uphold the Honor Code that all students are bound by. The Board is comprised of a mix of students and faculty. The percentage of each depends on the case. For Title IX cases, typically student panelists are not present during the meetings.
Kramer said the input of Farlow and other students on the Honor Board is essential because of their capacity to empathize with the students under hearing, known as the respondent.
Kramer said, “I am 20-some years older than some of these students, I don’t have the same life experiences that are happening right now with these students….[The Board is] very much driven by students.”
All members of the Honor Board are held to strict confidentiality. When looking for new student and faculty panelists, Farlow said that they look for mature and responsible people who can handle the delicate information.
Farlow said, “We look for people who are understanding…sometimes these students just make mistakes.” Generally speaking, the Board looks for people who are “mature, responsible, and open-minded.”
Most students do not know the exact functions of the Board until they are called to it. At a typical meeting, the respondent, the student who has allegedly violated a policy, is allowed to make an opening statement. The panel asks the student a series of questions and then deliberates and makes a decision about the appropriate sanction.
“Typically with Honor Board hearings, probation is awarded,” Farlow said, though other sanctions such as reflections, suspension, and expulsion can be delivered, according to the WC handbook guidelines and the Honor Board’s College website.
The Honor Board’s webpage also specifies that for varsity athletes, an additional review from officials in the athletic department will be carried out following any Honor Board decision. The reasoning behind this according to Farlow is, “with determining how many games they miss… [the Board] typically [does] not apply sanctions,” so it is left up to the coaches and others in the athletic department to determine that.
The Honor Code does not stop applying once a student steps off-campus. If a student violates the Honor Code off-campus, they are still subject to penalty, according to the Board’s webpage. The Board often works with the Chestertown Police Department to ensure all records of the events are accurate.