Too little, too late

by Lucy Jackson

Last Friday, Head of Upper School Harry Salamandra sent an e-mail to upper school students stating that the recommendations for two Honor Board cases that took place in December would not be released due to a breach in confidentiality that gave away the identities of the students involved.

After two months of silence from the Prefect Council and the administration, the one paragraph e-mail that spoke only in vague, broad terms was too little, too late.

Salamandra said in an interview last week that in addition to this breach of confidentiality, several pieces of the case had not been put together yet, and that until more information was gathered, the recommendations could not be posted.

But what information is the administration waiting on? The e-mail, which omitted any mention of possible missing links, stated that the Honor Board had made its recommendation, and that the administration had “concurred”, indicating that a final decision on the two cases had been made.

If there are, in fact, more loose ends to tie up, and that was reason to withhold the recommendations, it would seem to indicate that there could be a potential change in what was recommended initially by the Board. Students should at least be made aware of such a change in precedent, which the e-mail sent out made no attempt to do.

For months now, students have heard varying accounts of the story from their peers and even the students involved. At this point, everyone in the community knows who the players are and what they said happened, but it would be nice to hear from the referees. Essentially, everyone has given his or her two cents, making for a glorified game of “telephone” on the upper school campus. At a school as small as Harvard-Westlake, with a rumor mill as proficient as anywhere, everyone knows what’s going on in some form or another.

The problem becomes, then, not the quantity of information, but rather the quality of it. Without an authoritative source like an Honor Board recommendation, students are left to fill in the blanks themselves, thinking in some cases that justice has been served, and in others that the innocent have been wrongfully punished.

The variety in stories serves to break apart the community, as students question who’s right and wrong, and inevitably come to the wrong conclusions without an official record to rely on.

Frequently, the board states that a student needs to rebuild the bonds of trust between teachers and the community as its reasoning for certain punishments. If the stated purpose of the Honor Board is to rebuild broken bonds between student and community, then withholding the recommendation from the student body works against the board’s fundamental purpose. The community is not given a chance to learn from others within it, and therefore can’t grow as a result.

When it comes down to it, the Prefect Council and the administration need to improve upon their balancing act; we settle for anonymous recommendations, realizing that confidentiality is important, but when they are withheld entirely and the community is left in the dark, then the anonymity of the individual is favored over the well-being of the community, and those damaged bonds cannot begin to be repaired.