Honor Board applies new review procedure

Michael Rothberg

The Honor Board has reviewed three cases of Honor Code infractions this year in accordance with the new format of joint deliberation between the Prefect Council and members of the administration.

Under the new format, the cases were first examined by the Honor Board, which decided preliminarily on appropriate disciplinary action. After this, Head of the Upper School Audrius Barzdukas joined the discussion until the final decisions were reached.

“I feel like Prefect Council, the Honor Board, we have a very productive and substantive discussion about the case and then about the subsequent discipline,” Barzdukas said. “And I have to say that the depth of consideration that the Honor Board gave that case was a credit to them. I mean, they really thought that case through. Our school has a strong Honor Board and a good Honor Board.”

Though he could not discuss the specifics of the case, Barzdukas said that both sides voiced their opinions openly during the deliberations, with the new format.

One case involved a student whom the Honor Board called Gertrude ’15, whose English essay was an 85 percent match to an essay submitted by her older brother, a former Harvard-Westlake student, indicating plagiarism. The Honor Board assigned both names and genders randomly to preserve the confidentiality of the persons involved in the cases.

“Everybody was questioning me, and I answered them to the best of my ability and tried to give as much detail,” Gertrude said. Eventually, it kind of made me feel like they twisted my words.”

Once Gertrude’s case was heard by the Board, she went home. Shortly after arriving home, she received a telephone call from Father J. Young, the faculty adviser of the Honor Board, requesting that she return to school.

Gertrude came back to school and faced the Honor Board a second time.

“The first time that I went [before the Honor Board], it was fine,” Gertrude said. “But the second time I came, I felt like it was a different atmosphere, like they were more in interrogation mode than talking to me.

The second time Gertrude went before the Honor Board, she was questioned about an infraction that was unrelated to the plagiarism on her essay, she said. During these two hearings, Gertrude was caught lying repeatedly to the Board.

As a result of her Honor Code infractions, Gertrude served a one-day suspension, received a zero on the plagiarized paper and was asked to re-write the paper and attend three meetings with her English teacher as well as weekly meetings with Father J. Young and a prefect to discuss her progress.

These consequences were harsher than usual because of Getrude’s dishonesty before the board, Barzdukas said.

“With regard to the Honor Code, few actions are more harmful to the fabric of our community than pledging to tell the truth and then lying,” Barzdukas said.

“Mr. Barzdukas did not want to be in the position of overturning a case. So far, he has not thrown any curveballs,” Young said.

The Honor Board sent an email to the student body, outlining the basic context of the case and the subsequent disciplinary action. However, the email did not report the Honor Board’s preliminary recommendation and state whether the administration agreed with that decision, as the emails had in past years.

Gertrude said that she believed the email did not adequately reflect the complexities of the case despite the limitations of maintaining confidentiality.

Instead of more detailed emails, the Honor Board opted to hold an “informal meeting,” for each case, in which students could discuss the details and reasoning behind the case and disciplinary action with prefects in person. Students were informed of these meeting in the final sentences of the emails.

The case involving Gertrude was followed by a meeting in the Dean’s Conference Room at break. Besides Young, the prefects involved in the case and a Chronicle reporter, no students attended the meeting.

“We were disappointed that students chose not to attend the open forum,” Barzdukas said. “In the meantime, if any students have any questions about any case, they should feel free to ask me or Father Young.”

Barzdukas will also encourage deans to remind students to attend these meeting during class meeting, he said.

“We feel that our community is served better by a culture of vibrant and constructive discussion and dissent, and so that’s what we want the forums to be. Vibrant and constructive,” Barzdukas said.