Confidentiality or censorship? Cav Daily slapped with conduct charges

When the members of the managing board of the Cavalier Daily discovered they had a plagiarist on staff, they turned the offending writer over to the Honor Committee– and published an editorial informing readers.

Now that same board of student journalists finds itself hauled up before the University Judiciary Committee for allegedly violating the confidentiality of the pending Honor case. It's the first time the 121-year-old student newspaper has faced such charges in a case that pits two of the university's most cherished Jeffersonian ideals: its Honor Code and a free press. 

"I was shocked," says Cavalier Daily editor Jason Ally. "That's what my entire staff felt."

The editorial was published Monday, September 12, after what Ally describes as a marathon weekend during which the managing board had wrestled with the thorny issue of coming clean on the plagiarism within the framework of UVA's vaunted Honor Code and its mandate of confidentiality. They decided not to provide readers with the name, gender, or even the section of the paper for which the alleged word thief wrote.

Still, Honor Committee chair Ann Marie McKenzie contended that the editorial violated the University’s Standards of Conduct, and she filed charges with the University Judiciary Committee, a.k.a. UJC, which handles non-Honor student infractions. (The Honor Committee sticks with lying, cheating, and stealing.)

The Standards prohibit “intentional, reckless, or negligent conduct which obstructs the operations of the Honor or Judiciary Committee, or conduct that violates their rules of confidentality," the CD reports.

In a brief reportedly filed with the Judiciary Committee, the Cavalier Daily argues that the UJC is forbidden in its constitution from "jurisdiction over the exercise of journalistic and editorial functions by student groups.”

On September 22, the University Judiciary Committee held a hearing to determine whether it had jurisdiction over the student newspaper, and decided that it did. That same day, the Cavalier Daily published a news story and an editorial about the charges. Both were unsigned out of fear that additional staff members could be charged.

Adam Goldstein, an attorney with the Arlington-based Student Press Law Center, calls the incident a textbook example of censorship.

"Punishing students for publishing an editorial?" asks Goldstein. "I think it's laughable that a university entity has the authority to punish truthful information."

Goldstein asserts that the paper had a journalistic obligation to disclose the plagiarism allegations to its readers.

"I think it does represent a little of student governance run amok," says editor Ally, a fourth-year foreign affairs major. "The Honor chair never should have filed charges. In her capacity as chair, she doesn't know the boundaries of what she can or cannot do, or what the UJC can do."

Even more alarming, says Ally, "The UJC did not realize this was outside its jurisdiction."

Honor chair McKenzie declined to comment on case specifics or how the Honor Code's confidentiality cloak might have been breached by an article that doesn't actually name the alleged plagiarizer. As for suggestions that she overreached, the fourth-year history and American studies major says, "Basically I don't respond to those comments."

McKenzie does, however, offer an opinion on free speech: "The First Amendment rights are not limitless," she says. "There are standards the courts have maintained, saying there are limits."

What would Jefferson do? While UVA's founder may have wavered when under attack, he expressed a pretty clear preference when he professed, "Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter."

The managing board– what some are already calling the Cav Daily 5– are scheduled to go on trial October 28. Meanwhile, on September 26, the newspaper risked further antagonization of the sanctions-seeking student government with a new editorial entitled, "This is what censorship looks like."

It was a blank page.

September 27 update: As this issue of the Hook is going to press, the Cavalier Daily reports that Honor chair McKenzie has dropped charges against four of the Cav Daily 5, leaving editor-in-chief Jason Ally facing the Judiciary Committee alone.

"That was agreeable to get four of the people who did nothing wrong in the clear out of the five who did nothing wrong," says Ally.

In 1985, he says, the Judiciary Committee attempted to add control over student journalism to its bylaws, but ultimately the media exemption was maintained. "Clearly, I'm exempt and charges should be dropped," says Ally.


" student governance run amok " an apt description of this case. Sometimes being older does mean being wiser - send in the adults.

"Basically I don't respond to those comments."

She will go far in the US government. Perhaps the Obama justice department.

I hope she gets rebuked publically.

How can a fourth-year history and American studies major be ignorant of the fact that neither the First Amendment nor any decisions that courts may have handed down regarding it's limits have anything to do with the newspaper's argument that the UJC's constitution forbids any "jurisdiction over the exercise of journalistic and editorial functions by student groups?”

I hope McKenzie does not go to law school. And Judiciary is definitely overreaching. These kids are just looking for something to make themselves feel important. And don't underestimate politics--it may well be that McKenzie and UJC members have a bone to pick with the CD kids. Guess I'll hop over to the CD site and see what the commenters there have to say.

Does anyone monitor the news over there? You posted this story late yesterday, the charges where dropped yesterday. Pathetic.

"Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter." -- Except that newspapers are quickly disappearing. On the changing face of journalism and the newspaper business, Bob Gibson, Executive Director of the University of Virginia’s Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership, recently said: “I think our journalism and our politics are changing at an ever-increasing rate. The rapid change in journalism is very unsettling to the business. They are finding new business models that can work for newspapers in the internet age. Radio and television are also cutting back as advertising has shifted. They have to find working business models. They’ve also started cooperating with non-profit groups.... I think new partnerships are going to change the way the media is covering the news and the way the platforms are for reporting the news.... Everyone is trying new business models because old print newspaper empires will die if they view themselves as old print newspaper empires. They are either in the news business or in the newspaper business, and if they are in the news business they will adapt a new business model and survive. If they are in the newspaper business, they’ll just go out of business.” (Gibson appeared on the Charlottesville, VA, politics interview program Politics Matters with host and producer Jan Madeleine Paynter discussing journalism

On the contrary, the TRUTH is getting out moreso than ever. With the internet age scnadals are being brought to the forefront and worldwide pressure is being applied. A great example is how many people viewed Mr Mitchell being hit by a police officer while in his wheelchair on youtube, which made people look at the news repoorts, which brought ridicule to the Police Department for giving him a ticket, which brought pressure and the county dropped the charges to try and make it go away.

TJs referrall to newspapers was more about the press/ disemeoination of information.

Just because the newspapers can't make a buck any longer is just the buggy whip.

Essentially a disagreement among some college students who went through what they thought was a legal process, and their issues were largely resolved without any bricks being thrown or blood being shed. I'm sure some mistakes were made, but it looks like the process worked pretty well.
I'm sure the Hook will let us know when the next teapot tempest erupts.

Yo, Shaggy, not all the charges were dropped--just four of them. Who's pathetic?

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