Forum on the DC System Sparks Animated Debate

Questions about honesty, fairness, and false accusations in the DC system sparked lively debate last Sunday evening in the Philomathean Society’s panel discussion. The panel consisted of: Barbara Landis Chase, Head of School; Marlys Edwards, Dean of Students and Residential Life; Peter Washburn, WQS Cluster Dean; Daniel Gabel ’06, former Phillipian Editor-in-Chief; Charlie Frentz ’06, former Philomathean Co-Head; and Danny Silk ’07, School President-elect. One of the first issues the panel addressed was the idea of a centralized, school-wide DC system. Some students are concerned about disparities in disciplinary responses between clusters, and many want a centralized system to replace the current cluster system. Mrs. Chase began the discussion, saying, “The DC by cluster system is familiar to students…it gives a sense of comfort for a tough situation.” Ms. Edwards reiterated Mrs. Chase’s statement, also citing students’ comfort the level. Ms. Edwards furthered the idea, suggesting a solution to the problem: a combination of the two systems to maintain familiarity. Silk said, “The biggest concern kids have is fairness…I feel that, yes, if you switch to centralized [DC] system you lose familiarity, but people like the idea of fairness over familiarity.” After opening the discussion up to community questions, students raised the issue of honesty in the current system. The Academy has seen widespread discussion among students about students’ fear that honest peers will be punished for confessing in a DC, while others can evade the consequences of their actions through lies. Mr. Washburn offered the example of a DC in which two faculty members insisted that a student had committed a disciplinary offense. However, the student continued to claim innocence. Although the student was not punished, Mr. Washburn said, “I knew he was lying…[and] he had trouble with the rest of his time at PA.” Frentz said, “I think especially for high school students it is extremely difficult to come up to the people [in a DC] who control your future and say ‘I did this.’” Ms. Edwards replied, “I know that it is detrimental [to a student] to lie and to carry that with them, as well as having their friends know it too.” However, Gabel quickly responded to Ms. Edwards noting that “there are some people who can just lie, and feel fine with it. Maybe we should take it into consideration that is unrealistic to have students be honest.” Mr. Washburn rallied back saying, “I don’t think we should give you extra points for being honest. It should be in you guys [to automatically be honest from the start]. I don’t think integrity and trust is valued in your generation compared to other generations.” Adding to this, Mrs. Chase commented, “We are a school, so if someone is just lying and lying we are put into a tough situation. I don’t know what we should do to reward honesty. On the other hand, if someone is continuously lying, I wonder how we should investigate it.” The question which sparked the most animated debate in the forum concerned the right to confront a faculty member “accuser” as part of the DC process. Based on personal experience, a student asked how one could defend themselves against false accusations if he did not know who had accused him. Gabel delved further into the issue saing, “If there is [the possibility that] a student [who] did not do anything and [could be] punished for something he was said to have done, I wonder if this is a fair situation.” Mrs. Edwards responded by saying, “It really depends on situation and what the teacher said you did.” The forum concluded with high emotions, but with such apparent student interest in the issues discussed that both Mrs. Chase and the co-heads of the Philomathean Society agreed to hold more community discussions about the DC system.