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The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

    How do adults influence Honor Board decisions?

    Faculty and deans both advised and voted on decisions from the beginning of the Honor Boards’ existence. However, the new rotational system created by the student council-Honor Board merger, in which all representatives except the Head Prefects rotate in and out of cases, has thrown a new variable into the system. Sometimes, the Honor Board will include a less assertive batch of adults, and students will dominate, Senior Prefect Nuriel Moghavem said. Sometimes, the adults will dominate.

    “The personality of the board on any given day is going to be different,” he said. “Every once in a while, the adults will dominate the conversation. Depending on who is sitting on the case, the student voice is either quieter or louder.”

    Because the administration is under no obligation to follow Honor Board recommendations, some within the board have questioned the need for faculty and dean voters.

    “There is debate over whether or not faculty should be there, because we already have a faculty check,” Head Prefect Hailey Orr said. “Or, I’m going to qualify that. Everyone agrees that we should have some voting faculty, just not necessarily as many as four of them.”

    Recently, the Honor Board mixed up the seating arrangement between students and teachers to make it harder for one group to dominate. The new method helped, Moghavem said.

    Head Prefect Sammy McGowan said the Honor Board does not divide along student-adult lines. The possibility of one group “dominating” relates more to control of the conversation than control of the terms of the debate, board members said.

    In a room of strong-minded spirits, Orr said, everyone clashes: faculty with faculty, student with student and student with faculty.

    Many students are unaware that adult members vote when crafting Honor Board decisions, Orr said.
    “There’s a perception that it’s just a student board, and it’s not,” Orr said. “It’s a combination board.”

    The deans and teachers who serve on the Honor Board bring a perspective that students don’t have, Orr said. That perspective, not their votes, is their greatest value.

    The teachers give teachers’ expectations, and the deans give the long-term ramifications of a decision, English teacher Jeff Kwitny said. Students need these views to make a fair decision, he said.

    The voting positions on the Honor Board — two teachers, two deans and eight students per case — have not changed since the merger. This year, Kwitny and history teacher Nini Halkett and deans Mike Bird and Rose-Ellen Racanelli are the adults with votes.

    The adults who don’t vote may have more power than the ones who do. The board relies on the extensive knowledge of board precedent that Chaplain J. Young and Honor Board Adviser and history teacher Laurence Klein provide, Moghavem said.

    “At the beginning of the year, Mr. Klein was a bigger influence, because he is very forceful in getting his points across and also because of his experience,” Orr said.

    Student government members describe a change in the way they dealt with faculty members, especially Klein.

    “Sammy [McGowan] and I and the other student government members realized that this was our board, not his,” Orr said.

    When deliberations run too long, Klein moves discussions to the next point, Kwitny said. In this way, he focuses it the debate.

    “Every once in a while, especially with the rotation system, maybe it’s the end of a long week, the students are dead and the adults dominate,” Moghavem said. 

    Still, Moghavem does not want to change the voting system, because, in his view, its current form best represents the community. But, he does want students to take the lead in deliberations.

    “We as students need to take more control of the discussion,” Moghavem said.

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    How do adults influence Honor Board decisions?