The Second Best Policy

You just got caught. Your house counselor has just walked into your best friend’s dorm room to find three empty beer bottles on the floor, and two in the hands of your friends. There are six students in the room; only three have been drinking. You are not one of them. As your face burns red, you profess your innocence. Unfortunately, two of your drunken friends choose to take that infamous advice, lie and claim that they too are innocent. You all smell of alcohol. Is it wrong if the school chooses to breathalyze the three of you in order to back up the validity of each claim of innocence? This school year is the second year that Andover’s new drug and alcohol policy will be in place, but some students’ perceptions of reality diverge from reality itself. Phillips Academy has been in possession of drug testing and breathalyzer technology for over a year. The administration, which some students demonize as bloodthirsty adults itching to bring us in front of a DC, has not used that technology once. In an interview with The Phillipian, Dean of Students Paul Murphy said he hopes Phillips Academy will never have to use it. Though student sentiment surrounding the new drug and alcohol testing policy ranges from fierce opposition to wholehearted approval, The Phillipian occupies the middle ground on this debate. This policy serves not so much as an invasion of privacy but as a check for honesty. According to Murphy, the breathalyzer and drug tests will only be used in situations where students claim their innocence. While we lament that the day had to come where an Andover student’s word was no longer entirely trustworthy, we are not shocked. In many disciplinary situations, there has been an incentive for students to lie. Before the breathalyzer and drug testing policy, one could get away with it. When the honest kid gets put on probation and the liar gets off with a warning, even the most ethical of students feel the temptation to lie. The Phillipian supports student freedom. We are not afraid to point out encroachments, egregious or minor, on that freedom. But we do not feel that the new drug and alcohol testing policy falls into that category. Yet. If there is ever an incident where Dean Murphy deems a breathalyzer or drug test necessary, we will investigate the context in which it was administered. Obviously, honesty is the best policy. But when students begin to think that a consistent lie is as good as the truth, an administration committed to keeping its campus clean must turn to the second best option- unless it is abused, the year-old alcohol and drug testing policy serves as a strong alternative. By providing a practical incentive to tell the truth in addition to the ethical and moral ones, the policy prevents situations like the one at the start of this editorial. The Phillipian trusts that Andover has our best interests in mind. But, ultimately, it is difficult to judge a policy that has never been used. As for now, we must do what the administration did with us for years, before lying took away our credibility. We must trust. This editorial represents the views of The Phillipian Editorial Board CXXXII.