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Evan Behrle ’14

 

 
Evan Behrle, a third year Politics major from Baltimore, Maryland, was elected one of the Honor representatives for the College of Arts and Sciences in the latest student wide election.  We caught up with Evan this week to get his take on Honor; he certainly believes that it’s an important part of the fabric of UVa, but acknowledges that the system is no where near perfect.  
 
 
Describe your first (or most memorable) encounter with the Honor Code at UVa.  Did your impression of Honor change because of it? 
During the first semester of my first year, I was asked during an interview why Lawnies had to chain up their rocking chairs if they lived in a Community of Trust. I, like most of the other people interviewing, responded by pointing out that the Grounds were open to the public – that, in other words, people outside of the Community of Trust had access to the chairs. A few months after that interview, the person who asked me the question pointed out that my answer missed the point entirely. The correct response, he said, would have been an acknowledgment that our Honor Code is aspirational. It represents the pursuit of an ideal that we will forever fail to achieve. Even if we can strengthen Honor to the point where we no longer need chains on those rocking chairs, we will always fail somewhere. Some students will always lie, cheat, or steal. But to strive in the face of this failure, to refuse to abandon an ideal even if we know it will always allude us – that is where we can and should find meaning in Honor.
 
Why did you first get involved with Honor?
I first got involved with Honor because my high school had an honor code that was actually (so I’ve been told) modelled after UVa’s. Even though our honor code didn’t seem extraordinarily effective, it still felt like an important part of the culture and the project of the school. That seemed even more true at UVa, so Honor was something I knew I wanted to join.
 
During your run for Honor, you mentioned that Honor was broken.  If you could make just ONE change to Honor, what would it be?
I would move to all-Committee juries. Because Honor employs a non-adversarial pursuit of the truth, our jurors are expected to lead trials. They ask the first and last questions of each witness, and they are the only people with the power to call witnesses back to the stand. As you might imagine, this is a tall task for a student with no trial experience whatsoever.
 
Why do you think the Restore the Ideal Referendum didn’t pass? What can be done to change students’ opinion on this issue?
I think Restore the Ideal failed because, despite what I just wrote, many UVa students are uncomfortable with the idea of Committee juries. I think some of this opposition was born of a misunderstanding of the role that juries play in Honor trials, but I also know some people that opposed jury reform even after hearing about how Honor juries differ from juries in a criminal courts. At the end of the day, though, this is – critically – a student-run system. If students oppose jury reform even after learning all the relevant information, our job is not to change their minds but to work with them to come up with some other solution to the problems plaguing our system.
 
What is the future of Honor and the Honor Committee at the University?
Though Restore the Ideal failed, the energy and the discussions that it sparked give me great hope for the future of Honor at UVa. While it’s difficult to make any long-term predictions, I’m confident that the next few Committees will take great steps toward fixing the structural problems holding the system back. There is simply too much frustration over the state of Honor for there to be any other outcome. After that, the task is largely one of education: for Honor to remain relevant and effective, it must always be in dialogue with new generations of students and faculty.
 

 

Francesca Lee is a fourth year majoring in sociology with a minor in media studies at the University of Virginia. This summer, she developed a passion for TV production after interning at WETA, the public television station for DC and the greater metro area.  Throughout the summer, Francesca researched, wrote and produced several WETA Around Town segments about the local arts programs and graffiti murals in DC.  As the new campus correspondent for Her Campus UVa, she is working to create video content for the UVa branch to supplement the written content.  This spring, she hopes to study abroad in Denmark and expand her knowledge of international broadcasting and advertising. Francesca also gives historical and admissions tours to visitors and prospective students at UVa and is a member of Alpha Chi Omega Sorority.  
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