Virginia Military Institute’s Honor Court: Will It Change for the First Time in Decades?

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Apr 21, 2021 | 0 Comments

Early in January 2021, Virginia Military Institute's interim superintendent sent out an email to its entire academic community. The email defended the institute's honor code and system, even referring to the code as ‘a national model.'

However, peeking behind the scenes reveals that many have questions about the real-life repercussions of this honor code—and the way that the school may enforce it inequitably. As retired Maj. General Cedric T. Wins noticed, VMI's Honor Court tends to expel Black students more often than their peers.

Wins was VMI's first Black leader. During a recent meeting with faculty members, Wins asked whether the honor code operated in the way the school intended—especially as the honor code co-exists with a publicly-shaming single-sanction system. He cited a recent Washington Post piece, which dove into VMI's history of dismissing Black students at a concerning rate.

VMI Considering an Update to Honor Code Enforcement System—for the First Time in This Millennium

Wins has made it very clear that he does not wish to change VMI’s central honor code, which states that “a cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, nor tolerate those who do.” Instead, Wins wishes to examine the way that the student-run Honor Court, which enforces the code, chooses to mete out dismissals and shame those who allegedly violate the code.

VMI's Honor Court consists of student-elected individuals who investigate and prosecute those allegedly guilty of misconduct. Members of the Court have the power to spy on their peers, convict non-unanimously, and then shame any assumed-guilty parties with very public, very embarrassing displays of ridicule.

Wins wants to require that the Honor Court convicts guilty parties unanimously, and also wishes to shut down the public humiliation that often accompanies a conviction.

Graduates of VMI are cutting in on the conversation as well: On January 15th, a group of alumni contacted Wins to suggest that the honor system needed review. Not everyone is backing these changes, however. At least one alumnus has stepped forward to defend the honor system's fairness.

Ultimately, Wins seeks to preserve the historicity and tradition of the sanction system. He merely wishes to reduce the portion of the rules left up to human interpretation—a step that might lead to a more fair distribution of dismissals at VMI.

Joseph D. Lento Can Provide a Strong Defense During a Difficult Time

As you may be realizing, sometimes, your school may not stick to its own rules and regulations. Occasionally, this can work in a student's favor. Far more often, this isn't the case.

Your university has a reputation to protect. More than that, the people meting out punitive measures are flawed humans who can easily misinterpret rules and act according to their own assumptions.

If you're experiencing unfair treatment in your school's disciplinary system, you need to act now to pursue a strong defense. Joseph D. Lento has unparalleled experience aggressively defending students who need a second chance. Reach out to him today to protect your future. Call our the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to learn more about how we can assist you.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients nationwide. Attorney Lento and his team represent students and others in disciplinary cases and various other proceedings at colleges and universities across the United States. Attorney Lento has helped countless students, professors, and others in academia at more than a thousand colleges and universities across the United States, and when necessary, he and his team have sought justice on behalf of clients in courts across the nation. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide, and he can help you or your student address any school-related issue or concern anywhere in the United States.


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