Honor System

The Hearing

Accused students hearings will take place in the appropriate Honor Court, determined by whether the accused student is an undergraduate or a graduate/professional student. Accused students are provided at least five business days’ written notice prior to their original hearing in order to provide adequate time for preparation. Hearings are held in closed session, meaning they are not open to the public, unless the student requests an open hearing in writing in advance of the hearing. Open hearings are open to the public and the press in accordance with the North Carolina Open Meetings Law. All hearings are recorded to preserve a record in case of the student's appeal. In addition to the Court members hearing the case, the accused student, the Defense Counsel, and the Investigator are present throughout all phases of the hearing. In cases involving certain offenses, the reporting party may remain throughout the hearing, and, in limited circumstances, the accused student may be accompanied by their private attorney.

Accused students may plead not guilty, guilty, or they may enter no plea, which will result in the default entry of a not guilty plea. The type of plea entered can affect the type of hearing held.

Original Hearing Types

  • Not Guilty Hearing: In a hearing in which the student decides to plead not guilty, five Honor Court members determine guilt or innocence, and if necessary, any appropriate sanctions
  • Expedited Hearing Process: If a student wishes to take responsibility and does not plan to challenge the evidence, they may participate in an Expedited Hearing Process. In this hearing, three Honor Court members hear the case and determine the appropriate sanction for the offense. The Student Attorney General must agree to grant a student an Expedited Hearing Process if one is desired; otherwise, an accused student can still plead guilty and have a hearing under the procedures of a regular Honor Court hearing
  • Full Guilty Plea: In a hearing in which the student wishes to plead guilty, but perhaps disagrees with a portion of the evidence, five Honor Court members hear the case and thoroughly review the record in light of the student's concerns
  • Honor Court Alternative Resolution: If a student is charged with certain conduct violations, they may be granted an Honor Court Alternative Resolution (HCAR) hearing. In this hearing, the Honor Court Chair and one Honor Court Vice-Chair hear the case and determine the appropriate sanction for the offense. The accused student may choose to accept or reject the sanction(s) offered by the HCAR panel. If the student does not accept the sanctions, the case will be rescheduled for an Expedited Hearing Process
  • Student-Instructor Alternative Resolution: While not a hearing per se, the Student-Instructor Alternative Resolution (SIAR) is an alternative method available for resolving certain cases of academic misconduct.  Additional information on the SIAR process can be obtained by contacting the Office of Student Conduct at jpa@unc.edu

Original Hearing Procedures

All Honor Court original hearings begin with introductions of all hearing participants and a review of whether each Honor Court member has prior knowledge of the case and whether this knowledge is prejudicial. The accused student then states their plea which is formally entered, and both Counsels are given the opportunity to offer an overview of the case in their opening statements. While subsequent hearing procedures may vary depending on the type of hearing being conducted, in all hearing types the Court must determine by a standard of "clear and convincing evidence" whether the accused student committed the alleged violation(s). If that standard of evidence is met, then the Court additionally determines the appropriate sanctions. During sanctioning, the accused student always has the opportunity to present evidence to the Court of the student's personal circumstances so as to assist the Court in determining a sanction that is most appropriate to the student's unique case.

The length of Honor Court hearings depends on the number of witnesses involved, the amount and complexity of the evidence, and the length of time it takes the Court to deliberate. It is impossible to provide an exact estimate of how long any given hearing will last because each hearing is unique. Typically, the accused student will know the entire outcome of their case in a single evening.

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