In the past few years, the administration has steadily reduced the influence of the Honor Board through policy changes and their handling of several recent Honor Code violations. The administration’s readiness to bypass the board undermines its purpose and comes at a serious detriment to the student body.
Two years ago, the administration reduced the Honor Board’s influence by implementing a policy allowing teachers to handle “minor” first-time Honor Code violations without consulting the Honor Board. Whether intentional or not, this policy has been attributed to decreasing the board’s docket. Both former Head Prefect Reid Lidow and Father J. Young told The Chronicle in April that they believe this policy accounted for a considerable drop in Honor Board cases last year.
More recently, at the end of the last school year, the administration sidestepped the Honor Board again, after discovering that several students had knowingly cheated on Introduction to Calculus Honors tests by using exams from the previous year. This transgression clearly falls under the purview of the Honor Board, yet the group was not notified. Those who confessed to cheating are not allowed to receive college recommendations from their Introduction to Calculus Honors teacher and were required to complete four hours of community service.
While the administration has the right to bypass the Honor Board, doing so seriously undermines the reasoning behind having a board. One of the main justifications for having a board is to be judged by peers, who can better understand a fellow student’s situation. Allowing violations to be handled by teachers or administrators negates the purpose of having an Honor Board in the first place.
Moreover, the Upper School Parent/Student Handbook states that the Honor Board is meant to offer “a measure of consistency and coherency of outcomes when dealing with instances of dishonorable behavior.” When the Honor Board is not consulted, this “measure of consistency and coherency of outcomes” disappears. The cheating in Introduction to Calculus Honors was an obvious Honor Code violation and, according to precedent, the students involved received an extremely light sentence. Head Prefect Chris Holthouse ’11 even admitted that the ramifications for those involved would have been considerably harsher had the incident been handled as an Honor Board case.
The administration’s argument that this case could not have possibly gone before the Honor Board due to the fact that they had no way of knowing who was involved in the incident, is perfectly valid. Yet, that is no reason to leave out the Honor Board out of the entire process. Going forward, the administration should, to the best of its ability, move to include the Honor Board. If they continue to slowly circumvent the Honor Board, they run the risk of undermining the principles on which the board is based.