Administration evaluating trial Prefect Council System

Head of Upper School Harry Salamandra met with members of the Prefect Council as a first step in evaluating the current student government system, which was instated two years ago as a two-year trial.

Salmandra also plans to meet with students of all grades and had a meeting with sophomores on Monday. Salmandra said the prefects are generally happy with the new system but other students have problems.

Kate Liebman ’09 ran for Head Prefect on the platform of discussing a return to the old system and Alex Fullman ’09 conducted an online survey of students with informal results, he said, that show students would rather have two separate bodies. Prefect Council adviser Father J. Young said that while it was initially a two-year trial that was something the administration decided.

“The perception has been that it has been successful,” Young said.

Senior Prefect Emma Kaplan ’08 said she considered herself “a student government person” in her sophomore year and was opposed to the new system. After being on the Prefect Council, she said her opinion changed.

“The Honor Code is so much more interwoven into the community because the prefects have a stronger understanding of what the Honor Code is,” Salmandra said Kaplan told him at the meeting.

She also said the consolidation of the student government bodies is “less complicated.”

Head Prefect Tasia Smith ’08 credits the disparity between what students think and what the Prefect Council thinks to students being “not well informed.” Fullman said more than 300 students have replied to his survey.

He conducted it without informing the Prefect Council. Fullman said although he has not yet formally analyzed of the results,  he said most students surveyed think the Prefect Council is doing a good job this year.

Fullman said according to his survey, students also think that Student Council and the Honor Board should be separate entities.

“Someone you would vote for to plan your dances and semiformal and school activities might be a vastly different person who you would want to sit on the Honor Board,” Fullman said. He also said that he believes that the members of the Prefect Council have too much to do. 

Liebman said in her candidate statement that she believes “it concentrates power in the hands of too few.”

“It can’t just be four kids from each grade who kind of try to gauge what their peers are thinking,” Liebman said.

Liebman said she wants faculty members to nominate students to serve on Honor Board cases. 

A junior student comment on Fullman’s survey read: “Why should the people planning our dances be the same ones that potentially decide our future at Harvard-Westlake?”
“It’s not the same thing as the Honor Board or Student Council,” Smith said. Even though the 2006 Chronicle referred to the new system as a “merger,” members of the Prefect Council do not like to.

Salamandra said he would like students to come to him with more detailed complaints of the new system.

“I would like to hear specific reasons, and I would love to hear why students feel that it is not working,” Salamandra said.