A Handbook From the Wise

A few weeks ago, Steve Blackman, former Editor in Chief of The Phillipian sent us the article entitled “DC Handbook Created by Jiang and O’Hern ’07 To Be Revised, Reprinted.” Since we were not given an opportunity to express our views in that particular article, we felt that it was necessary to write the following to express our thoughts on what we think should be done and how the handbook should be used and to respond to some of the comments that were made. While we are very pleased to hear that the student government is taking such a keen interest in the DC process, we are concerned with some of the steps that Tantum Collins and Jon Adler are taking to try and achieve their goals. While their idea of creating a committee to create a handbook makes sense on the surface, the fact remains that all of the students involved will have had little or no practical experience with the DC system. It is senseless for a committee of students who have had zero practical experience, or near zero practical experience, with the DC system to try and sit down and write a handbook about it. We are not saying that these students are ignorant about the system. In fact, I’m sure they know a great deal, but nothing can replace the experience and knowledge you gain from sitting in DC’s for an entire year. I commend the student government on their position of trying to better inform the students about the DC process. The student government should make sure at the beginning of every year that the DC booklet is up to date and ready to be distributed to students at the beginning of every year. The intention of our DC Handbook was to create a guide written by students for students. We believed that a student publication based upon the experience and knowledge of students who have had extensive experience with the DC system would offer the most transparency and clarity to a very complicated system. We extended the courtesy to the cluster deans and administration of seeing the handbook before it was announced and to raise whatever concerns they may have had. However, we wanted to make sure that we had the final say in the editing process. No conversation about the DC System at Andover can be had without talking about the issue of honesty. The system is based on honesty, plain and simple. Without confession or proof of guilt no student can be punished. Instead of making a judgment on the system, we simply presented the facts and gave reasons as to why it would be disadvantageous for students to try and beat the system in the long run. Honesty is the pillar of the system and Andover has enough faith in their students that they will tell the truth and we tend to agree with that sentiment. It was suggested in the article that the DC booklet will be reworked and put within an already existing publication such as the Blue Pages or the Blue Book in a more concise form; however, that would defeat the very purpose that the handbook was created for in the first place. Both the Blue Book and the Blue Pages are written and produced under the purview of the administration and as a result, there are limitations on what can be said and written. The DC Handbook was written as a guide for students by students and putting it within an official document will severely undercut what can be written in it. There are certain aspects of the DC System that it is in the Academy’s best interest to take no official stance on or to give no official guidelines as it could expose the Academy to potential legal problems down the road. The intention of the DC Handbook was never to turn it into an official administrative document as “officialness” would have taken away from the transparency and clarity we wanted to create. Certain sections such as the “Possible Outcomes of a DC” and “An Explanation of DC Procedure” were written to the best of our knowledge from our experience, and are things that the administration would not have had the ability to produce due to, again, possible legal issues. It is also commented that our handbook was not concise enough and was rushed. I assure you that the booklet was by no means rushed. We wrote it towards the end of Spring Term because we wanted to make sure that we had all of the necessary experience and knowledge to make a clear and factual booklet and we spent a considerable amount of time working on it, collecting opinions from other student leaders, asking students about what they thought about the system and revising it. I implore the student government, cluster presidents, and DC reps to take advantage of a handbook that has already been made and is based off of experience and knowledge they have yet to gain. I also advise them to revisit the handbook at the end of the Spring Term so that they can edit it and update it as they see fit, but I have a feeling that they will find that they will agree with much of the booklet and realize that the reason the booklet is so extensive is because the DC process is extremely complex. The goal of the handbook was never to give students a “CliffsNotes” Version of the DC System, but rather, to lay out the entire process from beginning to end so as to eliminate any confusion students may have about any part of the process. We organized it in such a way that students can go right to the section or aspect of the process they were confused about. We hope that the new student government and student leaders will take what we have said into account before diving into a project that they have yet to gain the experience necessary to be qualified to complete. We also hope that they realize the importance of leaving the task of creating a DC Handbook a student publication that is not subject to administrative editing, which removes the transparency and clarity we originally wanted.