University honor courts — what are their limits?

The editors at The Cavalier Daily, the student newspaper at the University of Virginia, ran into a conundrum earlier this month simply by dealing with the university’s honor court system.

Many universities have honor courts that demand confidentiality for participants in an effort to maintain student privacy rights. However, the situation these editors ran into showed how seemingly absolute confidentiality rules can overshadow the actual purpose of these courts — accountability. The newspaper couldn’t hold its own former employee accountable or fully report the plagiarism that occurred because the honor courts would take action against the editors.

While student privacy is certainly a valid concern, the overzealous pursuit of secrecy makes it impossible for student media outlets to perform the same function their professional counterparts do for our real justice system. Accountability needs to be enforced for both sides of the justice system. Unfortunately, on college campuses that usually isn’t the case.

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