What the Executive Committee doesn’t do

Mac Trammell

As the body charged with upholding Washington and Lee’s Honor System, the Executive Committee is seen by many as the judiciary body of W&L. Members of the EC decide the fate of students accused of everything from stealing a pen in the university store to cheating on a final exam. But there are infractions, like drunk driving and sexual assault, that are seen by two lesser-known judiciary bodies.

The Student Judicial Council and the Student-Faculty Hearing Board, though similar to the EC, focus solely on deciding cases of student misconduct, without the administrative duties of the EC. A student caught driving home after drinking at a party would report to the SJC, while someone accused of rape must stand before the SFHB.

While the EC president’s annual orientation week address is meant to encourage respectful behavior of all students, what some consider the most egregious violations of honor are often never seen by the EC.


Unlike the EC, the SJC has a range of sanctions. While the EC’s only disciplinary action is to force a student to withdraw during a closed hearing or expel him or her during a student body hearing, the SJC has more discretion in applying punishment to students accused of drunk driving, physical assault and other forms of misconduct.

Because of the single sanction system, EC investigations are typically more exhaustive than those conducted by the SJC, though both hearings are conducted fairly similarly.

While the EC acts only when a complaint is brought to the committee by a member of the W&L community, the SJC can take its own actions. SJC members frequently review local police reports and initiate investigations based on their findings.

The SJC is perhaps best known for handling alcohol violations, from carrying an open container to driving under the influence.

But some students think that cases as serious as drunk driving should be considered honor violations, and therefore subject to the same procedure in front of the EC as other honor violations.

“For me, a DUI is breaking the community’s trust,” Mary Elizabeth Shutley, ‘16, said. “If you cheat on your homework or cheat on an exam, you immediately get kicked out. I feel like we almost have a more relaxed policy for DUIs.”

Shutley said she thinks that a greater sense of authority would be awarded to drunk driving cases if they were handled by the EC. She said she sees students viewing SJC sanctions as more of a punishment for wrongdoings, while the EC is tasked with charging those who violate a greater standard of morality and honor.

SJC Chair Paqui Toscano, ‘16, said one reason the SJC, rather than the EC, hears cases on drunk driving is because of its ability to assign sanctions other than expulsion.

“One of [the reasons the SJC handles DUI is because] we have greater sanction flexibility—which is not to say that DUIs are any less serious than honor violations. In fact, in most cases, I would say people would agree they are far more serious than your garden variety honor violation,” Toscano said. “But given the increasing litigiousness of the environment in which we are now operating, and given the problematic nature of drunk driving incidents…that greater sanction flexibility is meant to encompass the grey-areas within which many drunk driving incidents often reside.”

For example, Toscano said, if a student were to witness a student driving recklessly, the witness could report it to the SJC. However, without a registered blood alcohol concentration to consult, expulsion on the basis of a DUI would be difficult to pin on the accused.

If the case were reported to the EC, the committee would be unable to act. But the SJC, because it has more sanctions available to it, could still punish the student by handing down a lesser punishment.

Another reason the EC doesn’t handle drunk driving cases rests on its extensive responsibilities as both an arbiter of honor as well as an administrative council, said Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Sidney Evans.

“I don’t think they could do it,” Evans said of the EC. “I think the workload would be more than a full-time job. I don’t think they could do it and be students.”

Although the perception of an SJC hearing may seem less formidable to some students than that of the EC, Toscano said a trial in front of the SJC is no laughing matter.

The minimum sanction for drunk driving is a semester suspension from the university, and the SJC holds the power to dismiss any student guilty of drunk driving.

To emphasize the seriousness of drunk driving, Charlie Karp, ‘16, said she thinks the SJC should give an orientation week speech similar to that of the EC president.

“I think that as a freshman you learn about what you have to do not to get in trouble to stay at this awesome school, and so the best way to do that is to really pound it home if you have set punishments,” Karp said. “I think the best way to stop the cycle [of drunk driving accidents every 4-5 years] is to try to change the campus culture through the enforcement of infractions.”

Karp also said she’s skeptical that students would turn each other in for drunk driving if these cases were to be seen by the EC. By having the ability to initiate its own investigations, the SJC doesn’t have to wait for a case to be brought to it by a student.

In addition to drunk driving and other alcohol violations, the SJC handles other “garden variety conduct,” said Evans. These conduct issues include drug violations, non-sexual assault and vandalism.

Toscano said he thinks the SJC’s specialization in handling conduct issues better equips it to hear cases of drunk driving. The division between conduct violations and honor violations makes sure those issues are arbitrated evenly, he said.

But, he added, that division does not necessarily mean some violations are more severe than others.

“I don’t want to minimize the importance of conduct violations,” Toscano said, “because I think we’ve gotten to a point at W&L where we dichotomize offensive behavior.

“We have honor violations, we have conduct violations, and we have sexual misconduct violations,” he said. “If we’re just looking at honor violations and conduct violations… I fear that people have gotten into the habit of thinking H.V.’s are the worst thing that you can do when really the use of illegal drugs, the use of assault, vandalism, these are all very offensive actions committed against the University community.”


The SFHB, most well-known for handling cases of rape and sexual assault, is made up of four undergraduate or law students selected by the EC, four faculty members selected by the Provost and another faculty member who serves as chair of the board.

In addition to handling cases of sexual assault, the SFHB is tasked with hearing any case dealing with sexual misconduct, harassment other than sex (i.e. race, religion, ethnicity, disability, age, veteran status, etc.), and hazing from non-Greek organizations.

SFHB members go through extensive training required by federal regulations—regulations that, as of now, the EC does not meet.

According to Lauren Kozak, who serves as the university’s Title IX coordinator and oversees the SFHB, this training includes “detailed information about our policy and procedures, what constitutes prohibited conduct, how to evaluate credibility, how to evaluate evidence and weigh it in an impartial manner, the proper standard of review, the impact alcohol and drugs can play in the ability to consent, and the effects of trauma.”

Once Kozak hears a report of sexual misconduct, the complainant can take one of two paths: a remedy-based path, which may include counseling, changes in housing or other responses, or a disciplinary-based path, to be taken up by the SFHB.

Generally, the decision over which path to take rests with the complainant; however, the school has the power to bypass a complainant’s request for a remedy-based solution in order to comply with Title IX standards, Kozak said.

That occurs if one of several factors are met in reviewing a report, including the presence of a weapon, the threat of future violence against the complainant or others, independent evidence (such as video or photograph) of the incident, other reports against the accused or if the complainant was not of a legal age. If, however, none of those marks are met, the accuser may wish to find resolution without a school-backed investigation.

Yet, a student may want the school to investigate, and if that is the case, there is a set process that leads to an SFHB hearing.

Once the accusing student tells Kozak he or she wishes to bring the case to an SFHB hearing, an investigation begins immediately.

The accused, the victim, and any other witnesses are interviewed, and upon those testimonies and any other evidence the investigation finds, a report is produced.

That report is sent to the SFHB chair, who then decides whether to issue a charge against the accused. If he or she does, the case goes before the SFHB.

The chair chooses two faculty and two students from the pool of eight members to act as the jury. Both those chosen and the accused may recuse any of the four due to conflicts of interest. After that, the case proceeds like an EC hearing.

The SFHB has a range of sanctions it may bestow on any party it finds guilty. However, like the EC, there is only a single sanction of expulsion for those found guilty of rape.