Separate Prefect Council and the Honor Board

I’ve been waiting since August to write this column. I’ve been waiting for the right time, looking for the right news peg to naturally spark what I’ve always had swirling around in my head. I haven’t found it, and, frankly, I’ve come to realize that I don’t need it. It’s time for me to make my argument: we should separate the prefects from the Honor Board.

I am neither against what the Honor Board stands for nor what it was originally intended for.  Theoretically, the system is far better than any alternative that leaves complete power with the administration.

Initially, a teacher involved in the Honor Board’s creation once explained to me, the intention was to provide a place where those who betray the trust of our community – bound by an Honor Code – should have to face us and admit to their wrongdoings. However, since it wouldn’t make sense to have the entire community present, we elect representatives to attend, help “reintegrate” the student and rebuild lost trust.

Now, though, it seems the Honor Board has transformed into a disciplinary body seen in an overwhelmingly negative light by many students. Additionally, the Board has flaws that face constant criticism (transparency and consistency being two principal issues). While these are all topics that need to be addressed, that would require multiple columns, so let’s focus on the issue at hand.

During the 2004-2005 school year, a proposal was made to combine the 16 Student Council members with the eight-person Honor Board. The original proposal, which was unanimously rejected by the Student Council, was then modified to pass 15-8. All eight members opposing the merger were a part of Student Council (there was one abstention). This created the system we know today, which went into effect in the 2006-2007 school year.

However, a 287-student poll conducted in March 2007 found that 86 percent of students opposed the merger. One Student Council member told the Chronicle that the merger “was rammed down our throats.” The administration considered giving the student body a vote on whether to proceed with the merger, but ultimately did not.

I don’t think popular opinion has changed much. Both the Honor Board and Prefect Council would become much more effective, efficient and popular if they separated.  Despite some similarities, the job and skills of an Honor Board member and a prefect are fundamentally different. Yes, both should be honorable, both should be leaders, both should be representatives of the student body – but they serve different purposes.

Prefects are meant to “represent” the student body and be the link between students and the administration. Honor Board members must be able to analyze a situation and make judgment calls based on how to best maintain the integrity of our community. While prefects should be “moral” people, the job deals more with planning events and day-to-day life as opposed to strengthening the morality of the community. I concede that integrity and trust are important for both jobs. Yes, both types of student officials serve as representatives of the student body — but why must they be the same people?

The two positions seem to cater to two different “types” of personality.

Someone who wants to serve on Prefect Council may be more excited about planning events and fostering school spirit, but may be discouraged from running because they don’t want to serve on the Honor Board. On the flip side, someone with ideas on how to improve the Honor Board might be discouraged from running because they have no desire to be as forward and present a leader as prefects should be.

Eliminating the prefects’ Honor Board duties would allow them to plan more Coffee Houses, dances and events around campus. This could begin to foster the elusive “community” the school has lately been so keen to develop. Similarly, Honor Board members would be able to focus on fixing the flaws of the systems as it now stands.

I’m not proposing that the two are mutually exclusive. It is very possible that the same person could thrive in both positions, but let the students decide whether they want someone serving both roles.

I think the problem is two-pronged: first, not enough students are encouraged to run, and second there is a negative stigma attached to the efficiency of Prefect Council. Due to a lack of candidates, the class of 2014 didn’t even get to elect its Head Prefects. What does that say of our student government and the desire to be a part of it?

Reversing the merger would be a step in the right direction for solving this problem. Separating the two bodies would increase the number of students getting involved. Those now discouraged from running could instead run for the specific position they seek, enriching our community in particular fields.

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