Honor & UJC: A Tale of Two Committees

Honor and Judiciary Voting Machine
"Outside of ‘tradition’ there seems to be no known reason why stealing is considered an honor offense but murder is not."
Joint Committee on Jurisdiction (1987)

Honor & UJC: A Tale of Two Committees

Author: Zoe Olbrys (College, 2021): Honor Support Officer & UJC Support Officer | February/11/2019

At UVA, student conduct has been regulated for as long as there have been students. In response to student attacks on Professors Emmett and Tucker in 1825, the Board of Visitors (BOV) implemented stringent policies forbidding students from gambling and drinking, mandating they “wear dull gray uniforms, be in their rooms by 9pm, and wake each day at dawn” [01], which increased friction between students and faculty. In 1840, law professor John Davis was fatally shot by a student and, for the most meaningful time in University history, students brought their peer to account.  In 1842, law professor Henry St. George Tucker began regulating academic conduct by requiring a student to pledge, on their honor, their academic integrity.

Over time, the Honor System grew to govern all academic cheating but also cases of lying and stealing. A permanent student-run Honor Committee formed in 1912 but the BOV served as the ultimate authority for non-academic conduct. Jurisdictional boundaries between Honor and the BOV were hazy, as not all cases of lying, cheating, or stealing were academic.

Colgate Darden, UVA’s third president (1947-59), shifted the responsibility for non-academic student conduct into the hands of students. [01] In 1948, through several meetings with Student Council, an appointed judicial body consisting of three to five Student Council members was developed. Student Council retained oversight of the body and administrators heard appeals but this change favored student control over student conduct. [01]

Drastic changes were ahead. In the Spring of 1954, a female student was gang-raped in a lawn room. [01] Eleven students were expelled or suspended by the administration – not by Student Council’s judicial body. [01] President Darden also suspended Student Council’s judicial powers, leaving some students uneasy with the administration’s amplified oversight of student conduct. [01]

In the fall of 1954, in light of this gruesome incident and its impact on student self-governance, President Darden and Student Council discussed means by which disciplinary action could be legislated by elected students. [01] After long discussion, and similar to the Honor Committee, Darden approved a committee within Student Council comprised of nine elected students: two from College and one from each remaining school. [01] This Judiciary Committee, still without official standards of conduct, adjudicated “conduct which would discredit the University or conduct which was unbecoming of a gentleman”. [01] The Judiciary Committee was expected to manage cases that did not explicitly fall under the purview of Honor, excluding “cases involving sex offenses, parking violations, cases under consideration by Student Health, and contractual obligations with the University”. [03]

In 1957, the Judiciary Committee was extricated from Student Council. [01] In 1970, the original eleven Standards of Conduct were developed by Judiciary Committee Chair Tom Boyd alongside BOV member Don Santarelli. [01] In 1980, the committee officially became the “University Judiciary Committee” (UJC). [01] In 1977, just prior to the UJC rebranding, the Honor Committee created its first Constitution - increasing transparency and giving students the power to modify the Honor System through popular referendum. [05]

Transparency, however, is carefully balanced against confidentiality - a central tenet of both committees. If a student is found ‘not guilty’ by Honor or UJC, the case file is destroyed. If found guilty, only non-identifying case information is released to the community. A 1987 revision to the UJC Standards of Conduct regulates the confidentiality of Honor and UJC cases. [01] Standard of Conduct #11 now states that “Intentional, reckless, or negligent conduct which obstructs the operations of the Honor or Judiciary Committee or conduct that violates their rules of confidentiality” is adjudicated by the UJC. [04]

The UJC hears cases of alleged misconduct by a student or a student group reported by any member of the academic or civic community. UJC does not hold jurisdiction over cases of the Department of Student Health, cases of sexual assault, nor any motor vehicle regulation violations or contractual disputes between students and the University. The UJC holds no jurisdiction over the Honor Committee, Student Council, the Cavalier Daily, nor any other journalistic activity on Grounds. As such, each group has separate powers and truly function as separate entities, allowing both Honor and UJC to work their delegated caseloads without encroaching upon the other.

In certain cases, Honor Code violations can fall under the Standards of Conduct when they involve aspects of lying, cheating, or stealing. [02] Modifications have been debated, including: moving all cases of stealing to the UJC; eliminating seriousness as a criteria for an Honor offense; and merging the UJC and Honor. In 1986-87, a ‘Joint Committee on Jurisdiction’ formally analyzed the jurisdictional boundaries between the groups. In a February 1987 memo to the Honor Committee, the group cited six areas of overlap including: the “misuse of identification cards, violations of state and federal law, the act of stealing coupled with some other misconduct (for example, burglary and robbery), theft of services such as misuse of university FAC numbers, entrance into an event or dining hall  without fee or proper card, and vouching.” [06] The memo discussed a clear lack of “common sense” in the delegation of authority, which could serve as a problem when the UJC offers both educational sanctions and punitive sanctions while Honor sanctions are purely punitive. [06]

Today, the executive boards of UJC and Honor Committee work together to ensure appropriate case adjudication. Honor continues to exclusively hear all academic cases, so long as they do not involve illegal activity which may warrant additional charges under UJC. The UJC exercises exclusive authority over certain cases as well, such as physical assault. [01]

In 1987, however, the Joint Committee on Jurisdiction wrote: “Outside of ‘tradition’ there seems to be no known reason why stealing is considered an honor offense but murder is not, why stealing property is worse than vandalizing it, why breaking into a residence and stealing something should be considered by one committee while simply breaking in and not stealing something... is handled by another”. [06] The differences in these aforementioned examples is explained by a delineation between violations of student safety (primarily UJC’s jurisdiction) and breaches of ethical student behavior (primarily Honor’s jurisdiction). UJC adjudicates personal and property harms whereas Honor adjudicates harms against shared values - underscored by the respective UJC and Honor taglines, "Safety. Respect. Freedom." and "Honesty. Integrity. Service". [07]

The Honor Committee and the University Judiciary Committee were both created to regulate student conduct and promote shared community values. They embrace the common challenge of protecting student interests while holding their peers accountable. The evolution of their parallel missions - supported by independent committees - illustrates the unique opportunities for University service made possible within a system of self-governance. 


[01] (Axler, A.) (2018) Student self governance: preparing the next generation to lead [brochure].  Retrieved: https://honor.virginia.edu/sites/honor.virginia.edu/files/UVA%20Student%20Self%20Governance.pdf

[02] University of Virginia University Judiciary Committee. (n.d.). About the UJC [webpage]. Retrieved: http://scs.student.virginia.edu/~judic/about-the-ujc/

[03] Barefoot, C. (2008, Spring). The Evolution of Honor: Enduring Principle, Changing Times. Virginia Magazine. Retrieved: http://uvamagazine.org/articles/the_evolution_of_honor#1825

[04] University of Virginia University Judiciary Committee. (n.d.). Standards of Conduct [webpage]. Retrieved: http://scs.student.virginia.edu/~judic/about-the-ujc/standards-of-conduct/

[05] University of Virginia Honor Committee. (n.d.). History [webpage] Retrieved: https://honor.virginia.edu/history

[06] Mandel, B. (1987, February 15). Problem of jurisdiction between honor and judiciary committees [memo]. Accessible: LINK

[07] University of Virginia University Judiciary Committee. (n.d.). [webpage]. Retrieved: http://scs.student.virginia.edu/~judic/