Letter from Prefect Council:
We appreciate your efforts to bring more transparency to the admittedly mysterious Honor Board process, but unfortunately we believe the article “Honor Board” published on November 22nd, 2016 only served to muddy the waters further. As such, we feel we need to set the record straight and hopefully shed light on the true proceedings and purposes of the Honor Board.
Given that you appropriately changed the name of your main source to maintain anonymity, we cannot be absolutely positive that we know who “Chris” is.
However, based on the information presented in the article, we are confident that we know which instance and person you are referring to, so we will proceed based on that notion to clarify what happened.
Chris violated the Honor Code by cyberbullying a peer and threatening physical violence against him/her. As is protocol, when the victim reported what had happened, Father Young called Chris into his office to discuss the occurrence.
This is as far as the potential case went. It did not go to the Honor Review Committee, and it did not go to the Honor Board, because threatening the safety of a peer is a legal matter. All legal issues go automatically to higher administration. You falsely report the progression of events by writing that Chris’ case did not stop at the HRC, therefore implying it became an Honor Board Case. Chris’ “case” never even went to the HRC. And therefore it definitely did not go to the Honor Board.
The article makes it seem as though there was an Honor Board case about Chris’ Honor Code infraction at which Chris was not present. This did not and does not happen. Quotes from the article such as “Chris said the Honor Board was ‘out to Honor-Board someone,’ which blinded them from hearing his perspective,” and Chris’ allegation that “[The Honor Board] did not care what I had to say. They did not care what I felt. No one really listened to me” are unfounded considering that there was never an Honor Board case.
What did happen next was a meeting with Mr. Barzdukas who told Chris that Harvard-Westlake does not tolerate bullying. Mr. Barzdukas then explained that if Chris were to violate the Honor Code a second time and go before the Honor Board, he would face magnified consequences for this second infraction, as is the universal practice. A note was made in Didax, but it was not one that would be automatically reportable to colleges.
Chris is quoted as saying that “[Applying to colleges] has been difficult because it goes on my record, and when colleges see an Honor Board infraction, they don’t really understand the circumstances.” First, there is no such thing as an Honor Board infraction. Yes, Chris did violate the Honor Code, but he did not go before the Honor Board, and even if he had, Honor Board cases do not automatically get reported to colleges. Chris’ Didax record in this case did not rise to a reportable level and therefore had no impact on his college application process.
There were statements made in the article that were unrelated to Chris that we would also like to clarify. Firstly, there have indeed been Honor Board cases in which the student coming before the Honor Board initially appeared guilty and was eventually found innocent, contrary to what a past Prefect reported.
Secondly, there is a set protocol for “reporting and handling” Honor Board cases. We cannot ensure that community members always follow it, but it is our intention to implement a uniform practice. Finally, regarding the article’s cover photo, we want to make it clear that we Prefects do not wear our robes to Honor Board cases. Our goal is never to intentionally intimidate the student who is before us.
In conclusion, we understand that Chris was frustrated and felt misunderstood, but we expect you as a quality news source to go to greater lengths to report stories more thoroughly. While we acknowledge that confidentiality made investigating this story more complicated, we would have welcomed the opportunity to clarify the confusion before the article ran.
Letter from the staff:
We appreciate this feedback, and we encourage students and faculty to send Letters to the Editor for future issues. In this case, because Prefect Council and the Chronicle respect the confidentiality of Honor Board cases and anonymous sources respectively, neither can take further steps to confirm or deny Chris’ statements in the November issue as we cannot be sure we are talking about the same person. Upon another review of the story, we continue to stand-by the solid reporting that was done and cannot in good conscience retract any portion. We attributed any claims Chris made to him, and did not state them as Chronicle endorsements. If any errors were made, we believe they were likely the result of Chris’ confusion concerning the disciplinary measures taken against him. Additionally, we hope that Prefect Council will look into the other matters presented in the article that address aspects of the Honor Board beyond Chris’ story.