Nevermind: UVA editor's charge dropped at trial
A University Judiciary Committee ruled it did not have jurisdiction over the Cavalier Daily October 18 after it heard the alleged breach of Honor Code confidentiality trial against editor-in-chief Jason Ally.
The case stemmed from a September 12 editorial in which the managing board of the newspaper advised readers that an unidentified columnist had plagiarized material and been turned over to the Honor Committee.
Honor chair Ann Marie McKenzie filed charges against Ally and four other members of the Cav Daily managing board, alleging they'd breached Honor confidentiality in the editorial. She later dropped charges against four of the Cav Daily 5, leaving Ally to face the panel alone.
A Judiciary executive committee ruled September 22 that the case could go forward, despite the newspaper pointing out the UJC's constitution states it “shall not have jurisdiction over the exercise of journalistic and editorial functions by student groups.”
"It's kind of odd to be sure, since that's the same argument we made to the UJC Executive Committee last month, yet they declined to dismiss the case at that time," writes Ally in an email after the three-and-a-half hour trial.
"I'm happy the system worked," says Honor chair McKenzie. "I think the rules were not clear enough."
McKenzie says she stands by her decision to take the Cav Daily to student court– and to a statement she made to the Hook earlier about free speech: "The First Amendment rights are not limitless," she says. "There are standards the courts have maintained, saying there are limits."
Editor Ally, however, is not so sure the system worked.
"It frustrated me that it took six weeks for them to accept they didn't have jurisdiction," he says. "Also, that the dismissal took place during the trial. That's not where it should have happened."
He's also concerned about the Judiciary Committee's alleged misinterpretation of its own constitution. "It's infuriating that it doesn't operate under precedent," he says, which means a future group could challenge the Cavalier Daily's autonomy again or could try to amend its constitution to exert authority over student newspapers.
"[B]ut if and when that happens," says Ally, "we'll be ready to justify to our readers why the free press ought to be maintained."
He notes that the paper was put in a bad situation when it tried to correct and disclose the plagiarist. "We didn't ask for that situation," he says. "But when things hit the fan, we stood up for what we believe."