Statements of UVA Rector and President on 2022 Honor Referendum

Looking up at the Rotunda from below a hill

Photo by Sanjay Suchak, University Communications

Whittington W. Clement, Rector

The Board of Visitors has followed with keen interest the discussions among students about potential changes to the Honor System. The Board, which includes a number of alumni, recognizes that the experience of thousands of graduates having lived in a community of trust while a student at Virginia was the defining difference in their years at the University. We want current and future students to share and benefit from that same experience; even as society has changed in profound ways since our student days, core values of truthfulness and fairness in dealing with others are immutable.  

We also recognize that the Honor System has thrived throughout the years because its stewardship lies in the hands of students themselves and their authority to shape the Honor System as they believe will best serve all students – current and future. To achieve that goal, it is critical that there be widespread, vigorous discussions leading to a high participation in the referendum among all students from each of our 12 schools. We trust that students will weigh the merits of the proposal and be guided by a deep conviction that an effective, fair system of honor should continue to be a hallmark of every University of Virginia student and graduate.

Jim Ryan, President

The University of Virginia Honor System is one of the most significant and enduring aspects of a UVA education. In addition to lifelong friendships, the Honor System is what alumni most often point to when I ask what endures from their time at UVA. The call and commitment to live a life of integrity is one that has shaped their lives, often in profound ways.

At its best, the Honor System fosters a culture and a community – a community of trust – and is internalized as a way of life. The Honor System is more than sanctions or a system of punishment for infractions. It is a shared value and commitment; it is fundamental to our ethos. It is an indelible characteristic of a Virginia graduate.

All that said, and as important, the Honor System is the hallmark of an equally significant tradition: student self-governance. The Honor System is a system run by and for students. Students have the right to change the system. The fact that students have proposed a change might be worrisome to some, but I view it as testament to the importance of the Honor System and the sense of responsibility students feel about it – regardless of their views about this particular referendum. For that reason, my central message to students is to please engage in this discussion. Educate yourselves about the Honor System and this referendum. Reach out to your friends and to alumni to learn about their views and their experiences. This is ultimately your choice. I would encourage you to be as prepared as possible to make it an informed choice.

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