“Wait, Let Me Check the Blue Book”

Every Monday, the board of The Phillipian meets during study hours to hold our weekly editorial brainstorming session and discussion. The State of the Academy (SOTA) survey yielded intriguing and concerning data regarding student discipline, meaning there was considerable interest in discussing major offenses punishment on campus in this week’s editorial.

Once we began our deliberation, however, it was apparent that there were clear discrepancies between what each of us knew about the discipline process. Some of us were confused about the punishment for probation. Many didn’t know whether or not illegal parietals were a major offense and if they warranted a Disciplinary Committee (DC). Halfway through, a PDF of the Blue Book was pulled up on a laptop to fact check every argument.

The fact that students are not entirely knowledgeable of all aspects of the discipline process is no novel observation, and the source of this confusion is difficult to pinpoint. Day students and boarders alike sit through extensive meetings on discipline by cluster at the beginning of each the school year, and the Blue Book is available online for anyone to scroll through. But the fact still remains that even students who have sat before a DC during their time at Andover are often at a loss about the specifics of disciplinary responses or ramifications.

Some of this may be due to a certain stigma surrounding the process and those who have been through it. While 42 percent of SOTA respondents reported committing a major offense without being caught, only about 5 percent reported actually being DC’d. Not everyone wants to admit their membership to such a small, maligned minority; thus, candid conversations about the difference between probation and warning are pushed to the wayside. There might also be those students who never look at the Blue Book, and live in willful ignorance of the discipline process at our school.

Beyond that, however, is the intentional unspecificity in the Blue Book that allows rule violations to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis: on page 42, it is stated that “the DC, dean, and cluster faculty work to find responses that relate directly to the offense(s).” While not a reason for reform in and of itself, this ambiguity can allow for potential inconsistencies in disciplinary responses between individual cases, leading to a blurry perception of which offense elicits which punishment.

The solution to this issue is not immediately obvious. A certain part of our ignorance is self-willed and falls upon students to remedy. The school cannot be expected to provide information on the ramifications for every possible offense in a cluster or dorm meeting. On the other hand, discipline at Andover is an objectively complicated and scary process that students shouldn’t need to puzzle through on PAnet by themselves.

But we don’t need to sacrifice clarity and candor for privacy and flexibility. Both the school and students must use resources like DC representatives to their advantage for student-to-student education. We have a responsibility to familiarize ourselves with the discipline process using the Blue Book, but having DC reps more involved with cluster life would help us to understand the rule system we abide by. Discipline at a boarding school is not going to get any less complicated, but all parties involved need to start making more of an effort to clarify what intricate rules we have in place.

This editorial represents the views of The Phillipian, vol. CXL.

May 27, 2017