Student Affairs - Fostering Student Learning and Success

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Welcome From The Undergraduate Student Attorney General

Good evening, new Tar Heels! Welcome and congratulations to you, the Class of 2017 and transfer students, on joining the Carolina family.

Today, I want to share a story with you.

Back when I was a high school student there was one teacher whom I really looked up to. I’m sure many of you can easily identify a similar teacher – one who was not only your algebra or biology teacher but also a mentor to you. The person who most likely wrote that really great recommendation letter that got you here today.

One day during my lunch period I went to my teacher’s office to say hi and found her in tears. She had discovered that one of her students had plagiarized a paper. She felt disrespected by this student who didn’t seem to care about her assignment enough to do his own work. She felt that the student had disrespected his fellow students by not putting the same time into the assignment that his peers had. She felt that the student had disrespected himself by engaging in action that was below him. It was then that I realized that following the rules can have a meaning very different than the meaning I had always assigned to it. I don’t know what following the rules meant at your high school, at your previous college, or to your parents back home, but I welcome you to Carolina by telling you that here, in every classroom, to every Tar Heel, following the rules means one thing: respecting the hard work that your peers and faculty do to make this place great, and respecting yourself by working hard too.

When I arrived at Carolina I heard about the “Honor System”. I wasn’t sure exactly what it was or how it worked but I knew it sounded a little intimidating – especially when I came from a school that didn’t have one. I envisioned a large court room with judges on really high benches making a decision about Honor, which was particularly intimidating because I didn’t understand exactly what Honor was. However, the Honor System is not at all like the rigid rule defenders I had imagined, and Honor is accessible at Carolina. The Honor System is a partnership among students, faculty, and administrators to promote Honor. What I have learned is that Honor is a commitment to respect and trust. Respect, as I already mentioned, for yourself and for others – your peers, our faculty, and our administrators, and trust that everyone is participating in the same mutual respect. Together trust and respect allow us to live in a community at UNC; a community that makes us feel safe emotionally, mentally, and physically, allowing us to live freely.

Thus, I encourage you to learn that the Honor System isn’t intimidating, but is an essential element in helping create a culture of mutual respect. The Honor System exists to serve you and the rest of the UNC community. The Honor system covers instances of academic dishonesty – such as plagiarism, cheating, and providing false information to a professor – and instances of conduct that violate our community standards – such as drinking and driving, damage to property, and theft.

At Carolina we believe that Honor is something that is pursued daily and that everyone has a role to play. As students we pledge to be on our honor at all times and at Carolina, unique to Carolina, we help hold our fellow students accountable. The Honor System at Carolina is a student-led process.

I know you probably aren’t here to listen to an explanation of what happens after a student is reported to the Honor System, but since this is my only chance to get you all together in one room, bear with me for 30 seconds while I explain this student led process. When an instance of a violation of academic or conduct related integrity is reported to the Honor System, the Student Attorney General—that’s me—receives the report and determines whether or not to officially charge the student with a violation of the Honor code. If the student is charged, he or she meets with a student Managing Associate—a member of my staff – who explains his or her rights, his or her plea options, and relevant sanctioning information. The student is then assigned a defense counsel, and the reporting party is assigned an investigative counsel. Both counsels are also members of my staff. All parties then appear before the student-led Honor Court. The court decides whether the evidence proves that the student is guilty, and, if the student is found guilty, will decide upon appropriate sanctions. A lot of responsibility is placed in our hands, student’s hands, and that is because we have a vested interest in making sure that the rules are followed.

So what does all of this mean for you? It means that you have stepped into a culture of Honor, one that has a very long tradition. Carolina is a wonderful place, with a lot of traditions, and by the time you’re my age, you’ll have a deep love and respect for this place. So, from a senior to new UNC community members, here are my biggest tips to you: 1) Go to your professor’s office hours. We are privileged to have professors who truly care about us. 2) Take a class with Mark Crescenzi. I don’t care what major you’re in, just do it. 3) Go to every basketball game you can. Enough said. 4) Make time to hang out with your friends. And 5) because, what kind of Attorney General be if I didn’t mention the Honor System, I encourage you to familiarize yourself with the Honor Code and the different violations that fall under it. I encourage you to double check all your papers for correct citations before submitting. And for the best Carolina experience possible, you can apply to join my staff at honor.unc.edu Now, last thing before I leave the stage, please join me in reciting the Honor Pledge: “As a student of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I am on my honor not to lie, cheat, or steal, and to encourage others to uphold this Carolina tradition.”

Anna Sturkey,
Undergraduate Student Attorney General