A summary of key changes made to the structure of the Honor Committee and Support Officer Pool since 1977
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Evolution of the Honor Committee and Support Officer Pool: A summary of key changes made to the structure of the Honor Committee since 1977


Peyton Sandroni (SEAS, 2019), Vice Chair for Investigations | 2018-19 Honor Committee

Ankita Satpathy (CLAS, 2019), Vice Chair for Hearings | 2018-19 Honor Committee

With research assistance by Lucy Krasker (COMM, 2020)

|  February/11/2019

The structure of the Honor Committee, its Executive Committee, and its larger Support Officer Pool are defined by both a Constitution and series of Bylaws. Since the first Honor pledge was created in 1842, the principle of leading a life of honor and integrity has existed at Virginia. However, a standing  Honor Committee was not established until 1912, and a formal Constitution wasn’t ratified until 1977. Prior to this point, the Committee investigated and tried cases using individuals selected from the student body at large, and often made jurisdiction and evidentiary rulings on an ad-hoc basis. [1] The Honor Constitution gave the student body a formal mechanism by which to vote for changes to the system, and subsequent bylaws reflect the changes that Committee members themselves had made.

The original Honor Committee consisted of a sitting body of the presidents of each school on Grounds along with the Vice President of the College of Arts and Sciences. Each member was allowed one vote. The President of the College was designated the Chairman, and a Vice Chair was selected by majority vote. The Chairman was the designated spokesman of the Committee, while the Vice Chair was responsible for all documents. A third individual was designated an impartial Parliamentarian, who resolved any questions of procedure. [2] The Honor Constitution ratified in 1977 retained these positions, but gave the committee the ability to elect a chair beyond the President of the College and to select officers and to assign duties deemed appropriate, forming the foundation of the contemporary Support Officer Pool. The Pool was comprised of non-elected undergraduate and graduate students responsible for case processing and educational efforts. Though the structure of the pool has evolved considerably over the past 42 years, notably merging the educator and advisor pool and delineating specific case processing roles, it’s core purpose remains largely unchanged.

The Support Officer Pool was originally divided into two groups, Honor Counsel and Honor Advisors. Counsel were trained to act as the spokespeople for the reported Student or Community’s interests at trial, though accused students had and retain the right to appoint a non-Support Officer instead at their discretion. Advisors were responsible for providing confidential emotional and informational support to reported students and explaining the case process. Separate proceedings were established for students with “Contributory Mental Disorders,” a practice which still exists in modified form as the Contributory Health Impairment process. [3]

In 1985, the position of Vice Chair became officially known as the Vice Chair for Trials (VCT). The VCT was responsible for overseeing a counsel pool quite different than the one which exists today - because of the large number of annual trials,  a Counsel Coordinator was appointed to appoint counsel alongside the VCT and serve as a member of the Counsel Advisory Group. The latter was composed of 3-5 law students who were not Honor Committee members but who had served as counsel in the past and were established advisors to practicing Honor Counsel. The Counsel Coordinator also needed to be a non-elected law student who was nominated by the senior Honor Representative of the Law school in consultation with the incoming and outgoing VCT. By 1985, it was common practice for the VCT to appoint trial panelists, vet them for potential biases, appoint Trial Chairs based on which school the alleged offense originated from, and convene an Appeal Review Committee.  Though the Appeal Review Committee still exists today, the Counsel Advisory Group and Coordinator no longer do, as the number of annual hearings has significantly declined since 1985 – in part owing to the 1999 creation of the investigative panel and the 2013 creation of the Informed Retraction.  [4]

In 1986, a third member of the Executive Committee was added, the Vice Chair for Honor Advisors (VCHA). A Vice Chair for Educators (VCE), responsible for overseeing a separate educator pool, was also added. As of the late 1980s, the Honor bylaws outlined the operation of a Bad Check Committee, comprised of the Secretaries of all undergraduate schools, as well as a Faculty Advisory Committee (FAC) and Psychological Evaluation Panel. In 1987, the VCE was removed from its position as a voting member of the Executive Committee.

In 1988, the composition of the Committee was altered, featuring two elected representatives from each school on Grounds, except for the College which maintained three elected representatives. Support Officers were held to renewable yearly appointments based on performance standards. The standing subcommittees described above remained largely unchanged until 1995, when the first Diversity Task Force was formed in order to conduct workshops for faculty and staff on diversity and multiculturalism and to develop yearly evaluations on the status of diversity and multiculturalism within the Honor System. In 1996, the Standards Committee was added to oversee Support Officer conduct and removal from the Support Officer Pool, and the VCHA was renamed as the Vice Chair for Pre-Trials (VCPT). A new position, the Vice Chair for Services (VCS), was defined as the head of the Bad Check Committee. Notably, 1996 was also the first year that trained Honor Counsel were appointed to investigate cases, rather than random students chosen from the University. [5] At the time, members of the Executive Committee were required to remain in Charlottesville for the entirety of Summer Recess to aid in case processing, a change from the 1984 bylaw amendment which simply required Committee members to remain local for at least 24 hours after the conclusion of the final exam period. [6] There is currently no bylaw requiring Committee members to process cases over the summer, though in practice, the Vice Chair for Investigations typically continues to accept and notify students of reports.

Towards the end of the 1990’s, the Honor Committee began transitioning to procedures involving online case processing. In 1997, the Honor Technical Staff were introduced as non-case processing student volunteers to assist in website development, general e-mail distribution, and computer maintenance. [7] Two years later, the VCPT was renamed as the current Vice Chair for Investigations (VCI), and the VCE returned as a voting member of the Executive Committee. The Support Officer Pool remained divided into Counsel, Advisors, and Educators. The Conscientious Retraction was available as an option to students who chose to admit to an Honor Offense before falling under suspicion in order to avoid facing the risk of expulsion, and Investigative Panels (consisting of three Committee Members) were established in 1999 as a mechanism for dropping cases that did not merit a full trial. Prior to this point, student investigators made recommendations to this end. [8]

In 2000, Investigative Coordinators (ICs) were chosen from the Support Officer Pool to help the VCI oversee the large number of ongoing investigations. [9] In 2003, the Community Relations Committee was established - it originally oversaw previous duties of the Bad Check Committee, but soon evolved into a committee concerned with questions of diversity, inclusion, and representation.  [10] VCS became the default Head of the Community Relationship Committee as of 2004, but the position was renamed the Vice Chair for Community Relations (VCCR) in 2006. [11] Two years later, in 2008, the Committee changed in composition to its current structure: a group of 27 individuals including 2 members from every school except the College, which has 5 representatives (an increase from the previous 3). These members are determined by elections facilitated by the University Board of Elections and need not have served previously as Support Officers. The current (2019) Executive Committee is composed of the Chair, VCH, VCI, VCE, and VCCR – all of whom vote on Executive Committee decisions. All elected Committee members are eligible for any Executive position. [12]

In 2014, several changes were made to update the Support Officer Pool. The two groups were merged into one large Pool, disallowing education-specific Support Officers that were not trained in the procedural details of the case process. Senior Support Officers responsible for the recruitment, selection, and training of new Support Officers were codified in the Bylaws. All mentions of “trials” within the Honor Constitution and Bylaws was changed to “hearings”, changing the VCT the Vice Chair for Hearings (VCH). Counsel, previously responsible for investigating and representing student and Community interests at hearing, were officially divided into distinct roles of Advocates and Investigators. [13] In 2016, Advocates, those responsible for participating at a reported student’s trial, were renamed once again Counsel; however, processing cases before Investigative Panels remained Investigators’ responsibility. [14] Approximately 40 undergraduate and graduate Support Officers are selected to join the Support Officer Pool each fall semester. They are currently trained in all four roles: Counsel, Investigator, Advisor, and Educator; however, they often eventually choose to specialize in one or two. Standing subcommittees established in the bylaws include the Executive Committee, FAC, CRDAC, and the sub-committee on Policies and Procedures. The 2018-2019 Honor Committee established various other working groups, including ones dedicated to assessment and data management, alternative sanctioning, and community service. Though the changes described above are simply a summary of a rich history, and the specific aims of honor working groups will continue to evolve over the next several years, their core mission to evaluate and improve the Honor System remains in place.


[1] Barefoot, Coy. (2008, Spring). The Evolution of Honor. Retrieved from Virginia Magazine,

[2] University of Virginia Honor Committee. (February 1977). Constitutional Convention of the Honor Committee.

[3] University of Virginia Honor Committee. (1977). Constitution of the Honor Committee. Retrieved from

[4] University of Virginia Honor Committee. (1985). Honor Committee By-laws.

[5] University of Virginia Honor Committee Bylaws. (Amended 1996, April 3).

[6] University of Virginia Honor Committee. (1984). Honor Committee By-laws.

[7] University of Virginia Honor Committee. (1997). Honor Committee By-laws.

[8] University of Virginia Honor Committee. (1999). Honor Committee By-laws.

[9] University of Virginia Honor Committee. (2000). Honor Committee By-laws.

[10] University of Virginia Honor Committee. (2003). Honor Committee By-laws.

[11] University of Virginia Honor Committee. (2006). Honor Committee By-laws.

[12] University of Virginia Honor Committee. (2008). Honor Committee By-laws.

[13] University of Virginia Honor Committee. (2014). Honor Committee By-laws.

[14] University of Virginia Honor Committee. (2016). Honor Committee By-laws.