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"The Cavalier Daily has maintained the standards of transparency needed in a self-governance system."

The Cavalier Daily

Author: Riley Walsh (College, 2020) - Cavalier Daily Staff  |  February/11/2019

When The Cavalier Daily was first created in 1890 as the University’s student newspaper originally called College Topics, the Honor system had already been in place for over 45 years. Since then, the two organizations have had a push and pull relationship, with the Honor Committee enforcing the standards of the Honor code upon the students running the Cav Daily, while the Cav Daily has maintained the standards of transparency needed in a self-governance system. Throughout the 120 years that the two bodies have coexisted, this competitive dynamic has resulted in some interesting episodes and a few downright ridiculous ones as well, just a handful of which are included here. One note on the two organizations’ sources: the Honor Committee has collected much data and paperwork in its time, while the Cav Daily has not apart from archives of previous published editions of the paper. As a result, where there are letters and memos available from Honor which tell us about the internal mood of the Committee, much of the Cav Daily’s history is available only through archived editions of the paper.

The 70s were an especially tumultuous period between the two organizations. Before then, the Honor Committee did not publish the details of completed Honor trials, claiming it as part of its confidentiality policy. The Cavalier Daily, in a push for more transparency out of the somewhat secretive Committee, convinced it to begin releasing “Black Boxes”, or unnamed summaries of completed cases, in the Monday editions of the paper. The announcements were black bordered articles that included the accused student’s school, offense, and verdict. This move was not supported unanimously by Committee members however, sparking protests from within the Committee surrounding the details of cases published in subsequent Cav Daily articles. This continued until 1978, when the Committee decided to stop publishing the black boxes in the Cav Daily and simply released the verdicts to the public. Nowadays the Committee creates a summary of cases and releases it at the end of each semester, a middle ground between complete secrecy and public verdicts. The Cavalier Daily itself was not immune to criticism, however. In the 1970s, the Cav Daily was criticized by the Honor Committee for running occasional ads for pre-written term papers in the daily editions. The Editorial Board ran a statement in 1979 promising to stop future ads explaining them as a mistake by a staffer unaware of the paper’s ad policies, but only after a community member’s editorial on Sept 6, 1979 was published criticizing the Cav Daily for its apparent disregard of the Honor code.  

Amid all of the seriousness between the two organizations, there are also situations which are ridiculous in retrospect. One of these is the Jefferson statue heist. In the Honor and University Judiciary Committee trial room on the fourth floor of Newcomb, there is a larger than life bust of Thomas Jefferson. The thing weighs several hundred pounds and has been there for many decades. Imagine the Honor Committee’s surprise when on Halloween night 1979, someone went into the trial room and stole the statue. In 1979, the statue was worth $5,000 according to a Cav Daily article from the time. Nowadays, that translates to a whopping $17,293.13. Five College students were on their way home from the Corner that night when they took the bust first to the Rotunda steps, then to a Lawn room. After attempting to mail the statue, they put it in a car and started driving to New York City. One of the students called the Cav Daily anonymously after the story went public, saying that the bust was being taken to New York in order to get the program 60 Minutes to cover the Honor Committee’s breach of “due process”. Six students, five of which were Cav Daily members, voluntarily returned the statue to the UPD and submitted themselves for an open trial in addition to resigning their positions at the Cav Daily. Ultimately however, none of the “Jefferson Six” were ever charged with an Honor offense, and after serving their UJC-alloted community service,  they were reinstated to their positions at the Cav Daily. To this day, nobody dares to move the Jefferson bust from the trial room, and the door remains locked after hours — especially on Halloween night.

In addition to normal coverage by student journalists, the Cav Daily’s Opinion section serves as a platform for opinion pieces by students and faculty, a valuable resource even in the age of social media. The opinion section has hosted pieces by people who have filed charges like Physics Professor Lou Bloomfield’s piece following the 2001 cheating scandal, people who have been convicted of Honor charges such as Johnathan Perkins’s piece published in 2018, and even pieces by the Honor committee itself like Honor Chair David Kennedy’s 1975 editorial responding to criticism of the Committee. The writers of opinion and editorial pieces are not associated with the news section of the paper, but the Cav Daily provides them with a place to share their views with the student body and debate civilly.

In more recent times, The Cav Daily has taken to publishing weekly online articles on the Honor Committee’s executive meetings in an effort to maintain the transparency of the Committee and make sure that students have an understanding of what is happening at the Committee’s executive meetings every Sunday night. Beat reporters make an effort to understand the inner workings of the Committee and work with the Chair and other Committee members to demystify the Honor system, which can seem byzantine at times. The Cav Daily will continue to explore new mediums for reporting in addition to print reporting and online articles, continuing to hold the Honor to a standard of transparency needed to effectively govern the student body. At the same time, the Honor Committee remains devoted to holding all students, including the press, to the standards of the Honor Code.

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