Wiping The Slate Clean

This coming fall, Jennifer Elliott, Dean of Abbot Cluster, will become Dean of Students. Along with this high level change in administration, there arises the opportunity for a fresh perspective to help re-design the discipline system at Andover.

Currently in the Blue Book, there are nine types of official punishment that can result from a rule violation: Work Hours, Disciplinary Restriction, Bounding, Dean’s Reprimand, Censure, Warning, Probation, Suspension and Dismissal. Of those nine punishments, eight of them allow students to remain enrolled at the school, and of these eight, Probation and Suspension are reported to colleges during the application process.

Even though Probation and Suspension punishments are only applied in response to only the most serious infractions on campus, they can often be crippling to a student’s college application later down the road. The existence of the Warning punishment, which is essentially Probation that does not get reported to colleges gives rise to a pressing question: why are students not allowed to earn their way off Probation so that it doesn’t have to be reported to colleges?

This concept, called restorative justice, is something that could be implemented successfully at Andover. Students who commit Probation- or Suspension-worthy offenses in their Junior or Lower years would undergo a comprehensive review process at the end of their Lower year that would determine whether or not a student should have a disciplinary case taken off his or her record. This review would include evaluations from every adult associated with the student in an official capacity—house counselors, advisors, coaches and teachers—as well as an interview and a written statement from the student.

The administration should place students on Probation or Suspension with the intent of allowing them an opportunity to learn from their mistakes. The restorative justice process would be designed in such a way that unless a student has reaped the educational benefits of being on Probation or Suspension, he or she will not have the disciplinary case wiped. The student will have to show that he or she has improved in attitude in all, or at least most of, aspects of his or her life at Andover.

In addition to this holistic review, the committee that looks at each student’s case would also consider the circumstances surrounding the original infraction—for example, a drinking case might be treated with more leniency than a harassment case.

If the committee recognizes that a student has truly learned from a mistake, it would show in the review process and the Probation or Suspension would be wiped from a student’s record, although a repeat offense of a similar magnitude would still lead to Dismissal.

Punishment is only effective if students learn from the experiences and use it as a means to better themselves. Installing restorative justice into the discipline system at Andover would only help students in that endeavor.

*This Editorial represents the views of* The Phillipian *Editorial Board CXXXVIII.*