Honesty and Policy

It goes without saying that honesty is a cornerstone of this school’s belief system. However, it seems that there is a discrepancy between the values which the school believes in, and the values which the school acts upon. For in reality, it is not the liars who are punished at this school, but those who are honest. In last week’s Phillipian, Administrative Assistant to the Dean of Students Kennan Daniel said, “there has never been a student disciplined for something he says he didn’t do.” Now perhaps what Ms. Daniel meant was that no innocent person has ever been DCed; this is something I believe and am proud of. However, what it implies is that every person who ever lied about drinking, or stealing or cheating did not even go before a Disciplinary Committee. What kind of a message does this send to the students? If I was a smart student, as most are here at PA, I would realize that as long as I lie it is extremely unlikely that I will be punished for my crime. My hope is that this is not true, but nonetheless, it brings us to an important point: the role of honesty in the discipline system. Among what we learn at PA, there are certain things we experience that no other teenagers have the opportunity to learn. This is a place where society’s values are not just present, but they are tangible. Every day, students, staff and faculty exemplify the ideas upon which this school was founded. As Mrs. Chase discussed in her All-School Meeting speech last week, it is remarkable that at such a competitive school, there is not more cheating. Unfortunately, there is one area that is in dire need of reform. When a person breaks a rule at this school, they are encouraged to be honest. However, the punishment, regardless of honesty level, remains the same. In fact, as I discussed earlier, it is sometimes those who are honest who face punishment. This policy discourages honesty, and implies to the student body that if they wish to escape from controversy unscathed, all it takes is a lie. For a school with such an outstanding reputation for producing young people of the highest character, this is an unfortunate blotch on our record. However, I would also like to express that the status quo is not by any means ridiculous. Rather, it is the result of some unfortunate circumstances which are for the most part out of the school’s control. The administration has done an excellent job of not accusing someone of breaking a rule without first being sure that he or she did it. What this means is that they must have solid evidence, which I would imagine is very hard to get at a school where privacy is respected. In addition, while I’m sure many in the administration would like to be able to grant leniency to those who choose to be honest, the legal implications of such discretion could threaten the operations of this institution. Given the lawsuit-prone society we live in, it would be foolish for this school to tone down its stance on illegal activities. In the eyes of the law, for instance, drinking is drinking is drinking; whether you are honest or not. Unfortunately, PA’s policy must reflect that, or the school risks a multitude of lawsuits. Therefore, regardless of whether or not a student got so smashed that he puked all over your common room TV, or whether he took a sip and left the room, he must still be put on probation. This brings us to a very unfortunate paradox; on one hand the school wants to teach us values, and on the other hand it must protect itself legally. There is much left to be desired in this school’s policies on honesty. Unfortunately, I don’t have the solution to this problem. However, a leader defends and acts upon – not just talks about – values. You cannot expect your students to act honestly if your policies encourage dishonesty.