We broke it, so let's fix it


“By signing this I affirm that I have abided by the Honor Code in my preparation for and work on this exam.”  This statement appeared on almost every midterm I took.  And to any outsider it would seem to suggest that the Harvard-Westlake community is one predicated on the premise of trust.  But not to me. And not to Lian Zucker ’09.

Zucker had two exams scheduled for Wednesday Jan. 23, AP Spanish Literature and Chinese III.  They were both scheduled for 1-3 p.m.  So Zucker rescheduled the Spanish test for 9-11 a.m.  However, nobody else would be taking the exam at that time, a full two hours before the rest of the school.

So Zucker had to stay in her Spanish classroom from the time she finished her Spanish midterm until the time her Chinese midterm started.

Spanish teacher Nancy Holme-Elledge’s explanation about why Zucker would have to remain in the classroom between exams made some sense to her.

“When it came close, and the hype around the test was built up, it became clear why they made a lockdown. Had I ran into someone who wanted to know about the test it would’ve been uncomfortable,” Zucker said. 

But who’s responsible for this mess that resulted in a law-abiding student being deprived of her freedom? Before the finger-pointing begins, let’s all take a look in the mirror.

Students, it’s partly our fault. Simply stroll through the quad on a random day, and you could probably catch snippets of conversation between students exchanging test questions.  That’s not to say that this sort of cheating is rampant, but there is no doubt in my mind that it is there.

The faculty and administrators share some of the blame. The philosophy of the Honor Code is that we the students should be trusted to be honorable.

The system is broken. The Prefect Council’s Honor Code subcommittee (full disclosure: I’m a member) is working towards repairing the system.  But it’ll take more than written reports, proposals and meetings with the Head of Harvard-Westlake. It’ll take a conscious effort by everyone in this community, student, teacher and administrator alike to trust and work to earn each other’s trust.  The onus is on us. All of us.

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