A Matter of Circumstance

Dan Taylor’s ’06 “A Steadfast System” in last week’s Phillipian makes unfair criticisms of the DC system backed by little to no evidence. While the DC system arguably has some flaws, Taylor ’06, who admits that until recently he “never gave the DC system a second thought,” should look into the claims he makes before passing harsh judgments on disciplinary proceedings. Last year, I served as a DC Representative for Pine Knoll. Although, I learned about all the facets of the process, the lesson I learned most thoroughly was that DCs suck. They suck. That is really the most eloquent way I can think to describe being DC-ed. It is not life-ending or necessarily character building, and it certainly is not fun. No matter what brings someone before a DC, it is going to suck. That DC Reps should have more training is a common suggestion for making the process smoother, more fun, etc. Yet, aside from sitting in on an actual DC, which many elected Reps have the opportunity to do, I do not feel that there is anything else that could have contributed to serving my peers. Many students feel that the DC Rep and Cluster President should have more say in the punishment. Throughout the year, however, I never participated in a DC where my Cluster Dean did not ask for the students’ opinions first during deliberation and then prescribed a punishment that was not unanimous. Taylor, whose opinions are admittedly significantly more popular than my own, cites a need for consistency and standardization in the DC system. Taylor may have preferred to attend Andover before the existing DC system, when students who violated rules simply went to the Dean of Students Office and received their punishments. No “my side of the story,” no student input, no preparation, no deliberation, no inconsistency: one faculty member giving one punishment. The beauty of the DC system is that it is circumstantial, a fact that Taylor mentions, but glosses over in his article. The school does outline probationary offenses in the Blue Book, just as Taylor suggests. Illegal activity such as drinking and drug use is usually pretty standard. However, do students really want their DC to be by the book all the time? If two illegal car permissions exact a Warning, then too bad for the kid whose friend told him he had gotten permission for them both. As for consistency, I challenge Taylor to find two cases that received different punishment for the exact same offense. Consistency sounds fair, and I agree with Taylor that if two students commit identical offenses, but in different clusters, their punishments should be the same. Many students are unaware of the fact that Cluster Deans meet weekly to discuss, among other issues, DCs. They run potential punishments by one another. This is a fairly successful attempt at consistency. But should an Upper who buys a paper receive the same punishment as a freshman that made an honest mistake? I am inclined to say no. DCs are a sensitive issue, and I apologize if I seem callous to students who have had to go through the process and feel that they were treated unfairly. The real problem, however, lies not in the system’s procedures, but in the perception that many students have of its inner workings. If students feel strongly about changes, they should examine the system carefully before making harsh judgments and vague suggestions.