Undergraduate Senate doubles down on opposition to Honor Code revision proposal, citing breach of precedent and student trust

May 3, 2023, 12:38 a.m.

At its Tuesday meeting, the Undergraduate Senate (UGS) expressed disapproval of a motion passed by the Faculty Senate last Thursday to unilaterally revise the Honor Code and explicitly permit exam proctoring in the upcoming school year. Senators also said that they will meet with administrators later this week to discuss the Senate’s motion.

The motion passed by the Faculty Senate last Thursday asserts that the Senate has the sole authority to give instructors “the right to engage in reasonable proctoring of in-person exams” and explicitly permits proctoring in the 2023-24 academic year. The Senate’s vote sidestepped the UGS’s decision to twice reject the Committee of 12’s (C12) recommended Honor Code language and Academic Integrity Working Group (AIWG) study into proctoring. 

The Faculty Senate’s vote — dubbed the “nuclear option” by Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education Sarah Church and others — sidestepped 102 years of precedent on “shared governance” between faculty and students on matters of academic integrity. UGS co-chair Amira Dehmani ’24 announced that she, along with fellow co-chair Aden Beyene ’24 and Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) Executive President Darryl Thompson ’23, will meet with Church and members of the Faculty Senate Thursday to discuss the motion passed by the Senate last Thursday.

Dehmani voiced opposition to the Faculty Senate’s breach of precedent and sidestep of the double rejection taken by the UGS. “I think they should retract this decision,” she said, adding that the Senate’s decision was “disrespectful” and “incredibly flawed.”

Senator Kyle Becerra ’24 added that, by sidestepping the UGS vote, the Faculty Senate was delegitimizing the voices of the undergraduate student body and overriding its elected representatives. “They don’t respect that we have a voice,” Becerra said. “They circumvented the democratic process. The problem is likely staring them in the face.”

The charge of the C12 required that its proposed changes be approved by the Board on Judicial Affairs (BJA), the UGS, the Graduate Student Council (GSC), the Faculty Senate and Stanford President before taking effect. This is mirrored by the process for approving the charge of the AIWG which says, according to the Honor Code proposal brought before the C12 approving bodies, that “the charge for the AIWG is to be set by the same university entities that set the charge for the [C12].”

The Faculty Senate’s motion bypasses the student vote to allow professors to proctor exams in the upcoming academic year, although the motion would be overridden by the C12’s proposals should the UGS opt to re-vote on and pass the C12’s proposed revisions.

The UGS has faced opposition from several professors and graduate students for its rejection of the C12’s proposed Honor Code revisions. However, UGS parliamentarian Diego Kagurabadza ’25 said that the rejection was an exercise of “an inherent right of negotiating parties, if they don’t agree with the terms of a contract, to go out.”

“This trust is completely broken,” Dehmani said regarding what further engagement with the Faculty Senate might look like.

Senator Mark Huerta ’24 said that the UGS cannot directly override the vote of the Faculty Senate and “the University is very likely to enact the Faculty Senate’s decision.” Huerta, who previously voted in favor of the Honor Code proposals when they were put before the UGS, said what he supported was “more data [and] more results” and a “much larger campus conversation about this issue.”

Beyene said that the UGS has received mixed feedback on proctoring and other aspects of academic integrity. Beyene cited concerns raised by students that proctoring could be stressful, distracting and burdensome towards disabled students. However, according to Beyene, there were “a lot of [responses] mentioning specific experiences of witnessing cheating within their classroom environment.”

The C12’s aggregation of student feedback reported that “undergraduate student outreach on in-person proctoring yielded slightly under half opposed to in-person proctoring during exams here, and the rest equally split between ‘yes’ and ‘maybe.’”

According to the C12 proposals and recommendations packet, the AIWG study into proctoring would last 2-4 years and allow limited instances of the practice. 

Beyene said that she opposed the AIWG in part due to what she characterized as a lack of specificity. “The reason which I voted no is because I do not like the idea that there cannot be more specification on what proctoring is going to look like in the study,” Beyene said.

UGS deputy chair Ritwik Tati ’25 said that his concern with proctoring “is that [it] addresses the smaller portion of [Honor Code] violations. That comes with the sacrifice of racial profiling and disability practices.”

Reporting on student feedback, the C12 wrote that most student-observed Honor Code violations taking place in settings other than an exam room was just one of the student arguments against its effectiveness.

“As of now, technically, anybody that witnesses an Honor Code violation and [does] not report it could be charged with an Honor Code violation,” C12 undergraduate member Xavier Milan ’26 said in reference to the kinds of situations that he says the revised Honor Code would do a better job of avoiding. Milan said that the proposals passed the Committee by a “broad consensus,” while characterizing the Faculty Senate’s vote as an “overstep.”

Certifying the 2023 UGS election results

The UGS unanimously voted to certify the 2023 UGS election results following the conclusion of the case of Election Commissioner v. Chen, in which UGS Senator-Elect Ivy Chen ’26 faced charges of violating ASSU campaign finance rules. The ASSU Constitutional Council issued a joint resolution on the case Monday evening, in which a settlement was reached between Chen and ASSU Election Commissioner Whit Froelich J.D. ’24, who dropped his initial complaint.

Chen, who received the most votes of any UGS candidate in the election, will take office and must pay back all the campaign reimbursements ($100) issued to her by the ASSU. The case, which was ongoing at the time of the previous UGS meeting, was why the results for the 25th UGS had not already been certified.

Constitutional Council Chair Sherwin Lai ’24 wrote an opinion separate from the joint resolution of the Council in which he referred to the settled case as “yet another reflection of the staggering and incessant disregard of longstanding precedents of the Constitutional Council that have been reaffirmed multiple times.”

The Council has heard two cases on campaign finance rules before — once in 2000 and again in 2003 — and in both instances the rules were stuck down. Lai wrote that he voted in favor of dismissing the case before the Council due to not wanting “to force the parties to argue a case that neither side seeks to continue.”

Granting Discretion over Campaign Spending Audits

The UGS tabled a revised bill — authored by Beyene and sponsored by Froehlich, Chen and Thompson — to give the ASSU Elections Commission discretion over cases of purported campaign finance rule violations. Under the bill, the ASSU Financial Manager would be tasked with auditing those running for ASSU elected offices. The bill then forwards evidence of purported irregularities from the Financial Manager to the Commission in addition to the ASSU President and those chairing the UGS and GSC.

Dehmani expressed concerns about the very involvement of the legislative bodies.

“I feel like that messes a little bit with separation of powers,” she said, expressing a preference to defer to the Constitutional Council questions on conflicts of interest.

Beyene said that involving the legislative bodies of the ASSU was meant in the spirit of collaboration.

Under the bill, the Commission has discretion over presenting evidence to the Council on purported campaign finance irregularities. Candidates wishing to contest sanctions levied against them by the Commission can appeal to the Council. The Commission does not have to present evidence to the Council if purported violations can be either “easily remedied” or “not impacting the election results, with this decision being agreed upon via a 2/3rd vote of both legislative bodies.”

Concerned about the discretion given to the Commission, Dehmani said she wanted a requirement that the Commission make candidates facing sanctions aware of those sanctions so they can contest them if desired.

Abolishing campaign spending limits

Also tabled, the UGS discussed a bill authored by Senator Donya Sarrafian ‘23 that removes all of the ASSU’s limits on campaign spending and donations. The bill cites the 1999 Constitutional Council case — Case 5 — that declared required limits on campaign spending to be unconstitutional and a “clear abridgment of free speech.”

The ASSU Constitution currently imposes fixed limits on the combined spending and donations of Executive, Class President and UGS/GSC campaigns at $500, $100 and $100 respectively.

Sarrafian said that a core focus of the bill is to foster a more equitable ASSU campaign system.

“A lot of it is based on maintaining equity between candidates,” Sarrafian said. The ASSU limits on campaign finances, as they currently stand, “give a disproportionate advantage to local students who can use their parents’ offices to print things [or] who can go home to print things.”

“Students who might have a printer in their room [and] students who already have a large social media presence might not need to advertise as much,” she said.

Thompson, a former member of the UGS himself, said that another problem was weighing the potential inequities of finance limits with the inequities that could result from having no limits at all.

“I am struggling with weighing the inequities clause with the potential of people pumping a lot of money into [elections] which others don’t have,” Thompson said. “Perhaps the reason we are not seeing exorbitant spending is because current constraints do not allow for that.”

Clarifications to the Annual Grant process

Tabled from its Apr. 25 meeting, the UGS passed a bill which revises aspects of the process by which Annual Grants are approved. The bill codifies and clarifies a number of normal, current UGS Appropriations Committee practices such as a Voluntary Service Organization (VSO) only being able to submit one Annual Grant per academic year.

The bill also explicitly states that “the Appropriations Committee must unanimously approve all requests from VSOs to modify an Annual Grant.” Modification may also be approved by a two-thirds vote of the UGS.

“As the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, I think this [bill] will clarify things a lot for groups going forward,” Huerta said in sponsoring the bill with its author Kagurabadza.

Appointment to the Community Board of Public Safety

Also tabled from its Apr. 25 meeting, the UGS voted to confirm Dehmani’s nomination to the Community Board of Public Safety (CBPS), the University committee tasked with “reimagining public safety on the Stanford campus.” The Board also prepares an annual report that is submitted to the Stanford President, Vice President and General Counsel and the Chief of Police.

Dehmani brought attention to issues of campus surveillance and policing in her statement, writing that she wants to “advocate for measures that actually support students, not continue to profile and discriminate against them.”

“I will ensure that equity is at the heart of these decisions, and that student concerns over the racist and ableist history of policing and surveillance on this campus are listened to,” Dehmani wrote.

Healthcare Advocacy Committee

The UGS tabled a resolution to create a Healthcare Advocacy Committee to address various issues related to healthcare on campus. Senator Priyanka Shrestha ’24 met with fourth-year aeronautics and astronautics Ph.D. and GSC co-chair Jason Anderson to incorporate GSC feedback to clarify details on the bill and said there is still data to be integrated into the bill. Further meetings with the GSC are being planned.

Sebastian Strawser '24 is a staff writer for the News section. He is studying public policy and enjoys Filipino food, capybaras and napping on Old Union couches. Contact him at news 'at' stanforddaily.com.

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