Faculty Discuss Special DC For Dishonesty

At the faculty meeting Monday night, faculty members and administrators discussed forming a special disciplinary committee (DC) aimed at dishonesty that could take disciplinary action even if an accused student did not confess. Students whom faculty suspected of lying before or during the DC process would be referred to the committee, if created. This special DC would be school-wide, rather than by cluster, according to Carlos Hoyt, Associate Dean of Students. The faculty meeting also focused on the larger issue of honesty at Phillips Academy. “Right now we have a system that rewards lying. That’s not good. That has to stop,” said Mark Efinger, Instructor in Theater. The special DC for dishonesty, jokingly dubbed a “lie-alyzer” by one faculty member at the faculty meeting, would rely on hard evidence and testimony from faculty rather than a student’s confession to take disciplinary action. Disciplinary action taken by the dishonesty committee would probably result in dismissal, according to several faculty members, because a student would be convicted of both an initial major offense and a second major offense of dishonesty. The details of the committee are yet to be worked out, and several faculty members, like Tom Hodgson, Instructor in Philosophy and Religious Studies, hope for more discussion before forming opinions. “My opinion is not decided yet,” said Hodgson. Hoyt said, “I think we should all keep talking about it.” The special committee for dishonesty was one of four items presented at the faculty meeting Monday night recommended by a student-faculty working group that met last year to discuss the discipline system. This faculty meeting comes over a year after a well-attended Philomathean Forum about honesty and the discipline system. Hoyt said that faculty in favor of the special DC committee for dishonesty thought the current system was “not good child-rearing.” Under the current system, if a student doesn’t admit anything, he or she cannot be sent to a DC. But there is significant diversity in faculty members’ opinions. “There’s a large middle ground that say, under what circumstances [would a special DC occur],” said Hoyt. Several faculty members also had questions about the standard of truth in the special committee – whether the committee would seek evidence “beyond a shadow of a doubt, or a preponderance of evidence,” according to Efinger. The student-faculty committee that came up with the recommendations, chaired by West Quad North Cluster Dean Chad Green, included Akosua Oforiwaa-Ayim ’07; Michael Jiang ’07; Sarah Dewey ’07; Ferd Alonso, Instructor in Math; Kirsten Johnson, Instructor in Biology; and Henry Wilmer, Instructor in French, who retired after last year. Several other changes proposed by the committee are already in place. Currently, Edwards reports major disciplinary offenses to the faculty at faculty meetings, held almost every Monday and attended by most faculty. Edwards states the offense, response and rationale, and faculty members can ask her the names of specific students after the meeting. These reports began last spring after several meetings of the student-faculty working group set up to discuss discipline. Edwards sat in as an ex-officio member. In another change, DC representatives, who are elected by cluster, will receive more training this year. “We’ve altered the training a little bit by having [Dean of Studies John] Rogers speak to them so they are more aware of the rules on academic dishonesty,” said Edwards. The committee also recommended that DC reps be elected in the winter, but this change was dismissed because it would have conflicted with the housing lottery, according to a report fom the student-faculty working group on discipline. Cluster Deans will now be involved sooner in some academic dishonesty DC’s, due to another of the working group’s recommendations. Currently, a student charged with academic dishonesty meets with Dean of Studies John Rogers to determine if a DC is necessary. Including a cluster dean at this preliminary meeting will eliminate a later, redundant meeting. Legal concerns – that a parent might sue the school for a disciplinary measure to an action that the student did not admit – were also discussed at the faculty meeting, according to Ms. Edwards The rules of the special DC committee would be spelled out well in advance of its incorporation. Edwards said, “We would have to be clear about our policy.” Faculty also discussed the idea of an honor code. Efinger said that he hoped it would be student-driven. However, the idea has yet to come up at Student Council or cluster council meetings this year.