The Student Government Senate overwhelmingly shot down a bill last Wednesday that proposed that the Honor Council adopt standards of precedence for sanctions of honor code violations.
Twenty-four senators killed the proposal, which was first put forth before the student body last week by senators JD Barbosa and Carlos Echeverri. Five senators voted in favor and two abstained. About eight senators were not present.
The proposed recommendation asked that the Council adopt a guideline of sanctions for honor code offenses, Barbosa said.
They presented the proposed legislation in the wake of a surprising report in the Miami New Times that Andre Johnson, the famed UM wide-receiver, was given a weak sentence for plagiarizing a paper in a sociology course he took last semester.
Citing the Buckley Amendment, the federal statute that forbids the disclosure of student’s academic records, university officials have been mum about the case.
At the meeting, Barbosa argued that some cases are “extremely similar” and therefore should have “extremely similar” outcomes.
He also recommended that council members have access to files of past cases only after their deliberation and that the records be tracked with number codes to protect the identities of the previous violators.
The senate held off the vote last week because some senators felt they were not well-informed about the Honor Council procedures.
They agreed to continue discussion this week after learning of the process from an Honor Council representative.
Barbosa said he thought it was a “real shame” that the bill had not passed.
“There was a pre-thought notion that [it] had to do with that case,” Barbosa said. “In reality, I don’t care about that case except that it brought to my attention that precedence was not used.”
“With all things being equal,” Barbosa continued, “you are assured a similar ruling” to avoid one that is “ridiculously way off.”
Barbosa added he felt the bill was not thoroughly discussed. Senator Ted Sheibar made the motion to eliminate the bill. Senator Michael Holt argued against the proposal.
“The policies that we have in place are so good and well-thought out that they address the fairness issues that this bill attempts to address,” he said after the meeting.
Holt also said he does not think council members should have access to past records-even if the names are omitted-because “there is a risk involved that a student reviewing the files might be able to determine the identity” of the offender.
The student representatives voted after a brief question-and-answer session about Honor Council procedures with Dean of Students and Honor Council Secretary, William Sandler, Jr.
When asked about the review process, Sandler said the Council members are given a case manual but are not bound by it.
“No two cases are alike,” Sandler said.
When making its decisions, the five-student panel considers the circumstances, the student’s character and academic history, among other factors, UM officials have said.
“There’s a big difference between a 45-year-old housewife, who does something wrong and a student who wittingly plagiarizes,” Sandler said. “She may have a more legitimate excuse.”