Candidate Statement: Conor Cook ’13

1. For what position are you running?

I am running for the position of Senior Prefect.

2. What makes you feel that you are qualified for the position? Please describe any leadership experiences you’ve had, if applicable.

My experiences and character qualify me for the important position of Senior Prefect. I currently serve as the male Student Council Representative for School Year Abroad Spain. I represent a diverse student body, with students from more than 40 different schools across America. It is my responsibility to give each of them a voice. Each week, I give speeches at class assemblies, notify our class about upcoming events, meet with teachers and faculty, and discuss issues within our community. SYA’s Honor Board addresses academic violations and substance abuse issues. Being in SYA for this past year has given me experience collaborating with students, faculty, and staff. I work hard negotiating sensitive issues to better connect the students and faculty.

I have worked with BookEnds in Los Angeles for the past 6 years and served as its Youth Board Co-Chair. BookEnds is a non-profit organization that collects and redistributes books to schools and hospitals in need. We have created full libraries. In that leadership role, I was responsible for coordinating all meetings and activities between the adults, students, and schools. I spearheaded and organized all aspects of multiple book drives, from initial collection to delivery day. I proved to be a leader and excel in a group environment. I can plan, execute, and follow up on what I promise to do. I am true to my word.

As a very social person, I genuinely enjoy talking to all members of the Harvard-Westlake community, whether it is students, teachers, coaches, or administrators. I am accessible and compassionate. I have built strong relationships with teachers and faculty, and I know I can better unite us all together. I have integrity and uphold the Honor Code. I will be the unbiased person who can sits on the Honor Board cases without prejudgments.

I will bring a fresh and new, yet experienced perspective, to the Prefect Council our senior year. I will work hard to achieve our community’s goals.

3. How do you feel about the Honor Board and what has led you to feel this way?

            I feel the Honor Board is unique. It is one of the many things that makes Harvard-Westlake such a special place. I promise to be a fair voice for our entire student body.

            As a middle schooler, I initially had reservations when I heard the Honor Board consisted of fellow HW students. At the Upper School, I quickly understood that the Honor Board is meant to connect and strengthen the relationship between students, faculty, and administration. Each class elects Prefects for a good reason- to present an impartial, fair voice on the Honor Board. Prefects must uphold and interpret the Honor Code, which I will do.

            I know I will best represent our class on the Honor Board and help make objective and honest decisions. I know this is not an easy task and a huge responsibility, but I am prepared to do exactly that.

4. Please describe one thing in Harvard-Westlake’s community you would change. Also, how would you use the influence of the position of Head Prefect to change our community? 

            As a Senior Prefect, I would like to improve connections and communications in the school in three ways: revise the Honor Code, create more senior class bonding events, and improve interaction between students, faculty, and administration.

            The Honor Code enhances the trust that is already placed within our community. Harvard-Westlake always excels at improving, and we always aim to be better. After 14 years, it is time for us to revise the Honor Code. As a community, there is often confusion and the Honor Code can be unclear. The Honor Code embodies different interpretations, depending on the department. The responsibility of revising the Honor Code is in the hands of the community, but Prefect Council should help connect the student body to the faculty and administration- to speak on behalf of the student body.

            In addition to revising the Honor Code, I think teachers should more clearly state their interpretations of the Honor Code at the beginning of the year to each class they teach. Also, deans could answer anonymous questions about possible Honor Code infractions, and the Prefect Council would then send out the answers, similar to the system of recommendations after an Honor Board Case.

            The most recent issue of HW’s Chronicle brought a lot of these concerns to light. “My name affirms my honor”, but what exactly does “honor” entail? Our Honor Code begs to be honed and clarified, not only for ourselves, but also for future Harvard-Westlake students.  

            Senior year is our last year together, and we need more bonding activities. Harvard-Westlake is an intense environment, but one of the best things about our school is the friendships we form over the years. This year’s senior class created “Semi 2012”, with an after party of course, on campus. The seniors put aside the stress of high school and college to just have fun. As a class, we can create events together, whether it is a pool party in the new pool, a senior picnic on the field, or a concert in the quad.

As a Senior Prefect, I will also better connect the students with the faculty and administration. Due to communication issues, sometimes there is a divide among us. Harvard-Westlake is such a large school with a varied student body. Many things happen simultaneously between academics, sports, theater, dance, etc. Students are not always sufficiently informed, and we sometimes are afraid to ask questions. I will ask the questions and relay the answers.

            I bring forward the idea of a simple and confidential way for students to ask questions or voice concerns to the faculty and administration. We will implement a system in which students can send in questions or concerns anonymously, and they will be relayed to the faculty and administration. Prefect Council will then publish the responses on a weekly, if not daily, basis. As a Senior Prefect, I will literally be your voice. There will be clearer communication and stronger connection among the students, faculty, and administration.

            I am your best candidate. I bring a fresh perspective to Prefect Council with both leadership and Student Council experiences. I am invigorated and committed to make Harvard-Westlake an even better place.