Increase in Winter Term DCs Related to Illegal Substances Concerns PA

A sudden increase in disciplinary action related to illegal substances this Winter Term has concerned many students and faculty on campus. This past Winter Term saw 33 DCs and sanctuaries for alcohol and drug related incidents alone. In the winter terms of 2002 and 2003, the five clusters combined saw one and three DCs respectively. In 2004, 15 students faced discipline. However, these numbers indicate the overall number of DCs, not ones simply for alcohol or drugs, and do not count sanctuaries. The steep rise could be attributed to larger numbers of students involved in several of the cases this year, including two incidents which involved members of this newspaper’s staff. Other reasons for this increase are not apparent to most students and faculty on campus. According to West Quad North Cluster Dean Chad Green, the faculty did not attempt to “crack down” on students, but followed the normal procedure. Observing the recent increase in substance abuse among students this winter, Mr. Green said, “I have heard [two] things – there is an increase in substance abuse, and kids are just getting unlucky.” Pine Knoll DC Representative Matt Kahn ’06 said, “A lot of it is that kids are just not being as careful. I don’t think that there is an actual increase in illegal activity. It is just a combination of bad luck and sloppiness.” Although the source of this growth remains unclear, many faculty and administrators are concerned. School Physician Dr. Richard Keller reveals that this was an alarming trend, regardless of the reasons behind it. With the large number of DCs this term, some students have wondered about the disciplinary process. Phillips Academy uses a cluster-based disciplinary system. Thus, when a particular student gets into trouble, his or her individual cluster dean handles the questioning and addresses the disciplinary committee. The process in which Cluster Deans obtain information and confront students varies with each case. “[Like students] we are aware of our surroundings and we follow up on concerns brought to us,” said Flagstaff Cluster Dean Clyfe Beckwith. Though deans do act upon rumors, whether or not discipline will follow depends on the individual case. Mr. Beckwith continued, “We try to confirm [rumors] by investigating, by asking questions.” “It basically turns into a series of conversations until we get to a point where [the incident] all makes sense,” added Mr. Green. While a Cluster Dean can question a student based upon something they have heard, he or she will not always intend to take disciplinary action. “I would hope that all members of the community would understand that when I speak with them about [my] concerns, [I have] their best interests in mind,” said Mr. Beckwith. Questioning a student does not automatically lead to disciplinary action. If suspicion surrounds a student regarding his or her involvement in a particular incident, the deans cannot act upon it without solid information. When questioning a student, deans try to be as non-confrontational as possible, according to Mr. Green. He said, “I try to be as respectful and straightforward as I can be it is all about getting to the truth.” According to Administrative Assistant to the Dean of Students Kennan Daniel, “there has never been a student disciplined for something he says he didn’t do.” Mr. Green acknowledged that honesty is a valued characteristic in a person, “but unfortunately it is the people who are honest that get disciplined. Our system is based upon of honesty and integrity – our whole system functions because we assume that integrity matters.” Students cannot be disciplined based upon what other people have said or believe, but only upon a confession. “It doesn’t matter if three teachers see a student and think that he or she has been drinking, if that student says that they have not been drinking, we have to go with what the student said,” said Ms. Murata. She also advocated the use of a breathalyzer on campus to avoid circumstances such as the one listed above, so that a student can either be definitively cleared of guilt or accused of wrongdoing. “I feel that it is better for a students long term growth to be able to admit to his or her actions and accept the appropriate discipline,” continued Ms. Murata, “Even if you do lie and get away with it, everyone on campus is going to know that you did what you did, and didn’t own up to it.” If a student is found guilty he or she will face a five-person discipline committee to determine an appropriate response to his or her actions. “A DC is not a court of law,” said Mr. Green, as it only [occurs] once guilt has already been determined.” The results of a DC are based upon numerous factors. “It is possible for two students to receive different responses for the same offense,” added Ms. Murata, “because it depends not only on precedent, but also on that particular student’s personal statement, and whether or not he truly understands his actions.” Mr. Green said, “We maintain a careful system of checks and balances so that responses remain as consistent as possible, and prevents us from having any overzealous cluster deans.”