Try harder for Honor Board Transparency

James Hur

At the end of an emailed Honor Board Recommendation, students were invited to an “informal meeting” in the Deans’ Conference Room the next day. According to a Chronicle poll, 70 percent of the 423 students polled did not know about this meeting. Besides the Chronicle reporter on the event, no students showed up to the meeting on Dec. 5. to discuss the details of the case with five prefects and Father J. Young.
As part of a reformed Honor Board process announced in September, the meeting was intended to open discussion on the Honor Code and provide a meaningful way for students to have their voice in the Code that they sign on every assignment. This we support overwhelmingly as we have advocated for such an outlet in past editorials.
However, this meeting replaced a comprehensive write-up by members of the Honor Board sent to all students that provided more information for students who wanted it. And with a open forum that was announced up the day before in such a small venue, we must be concerned with the lack of effort in advertising such events that Prefect Council as opposed to the care they show for social events to get students to attend.
With the new concise Honor Board Recommendations, the majority of students have lost access to more details of the case. Not every student can take time out of their break when they have clubs to attend or teachers to meet with. Previously, every student at the Upper School had the chance to skim over the facts when they had a few free minutes and crucially, a chance to see the reasoning behind the Honor Board’s actions.
Not every case needs dozens of pages but if the members of the Honor Board really aspire to increased transparency, each case must have more than a two sentence summary and a list of punishments and include the reasoning behind every punishment. Without this rationale, there is no information to spark a honest discussion about the Honor Code that would drive students to an open forum. We also have little reason to have faith in opinions of our student leaders when their opinions to the case are not shown at all.
Head of School Audrius Barzdukas said in September of the new process that “there will be no writing until there is an agreement” and although consensus is necessary between the students on the Honor Board and the administrators who must carry out the punishment, students should have the ability to know how this consensus was met and how different viewpoints converged to a final decision.
The open forums about the Honor Code are a step in the right direction, but a more thorough recommendation is not only necessary to increase transparency on the Honor Board as was intended by the reforms but also spark to discussion.