New Disciplinary Task Force Formed

A new task force of faculty and administrators, led by Matthew Hession, Instructor in History and Social Science, recently formed in order to put Andover’s disciplinary process under examination. Ultimately, the team will recommend some form of revision of the process to the Dean of Students Office.

Hession said the group is still trying to determine exactly which aspects of the disciplinary process should be reworked.

The current disciplinary process operates as such: When a student is suspected of a rule violation, a faculty or staff member questions the student about the incident. If that adult determines that a major offense has taken place, a Disciplinary Committee (DC) will meet with the student to discuss possible responses. Before that meeting, the committee asks the student to prepare a statement on the specifics of the infraction.

Hession said the committee has some preliminary ideas of areas it wants to focus on. He said one avenue in which it would like to make change is consistency across disciplinary responses. Because of the separate processes in each of the five clusters, fairness to all students is a serious concern for the committee.

“We could… consider looking at how it is when it comes to fairness treating students… There are some schools that have a centralized discipline committee meeting process. We’re a school that localizes it across five different clusters. The committee could also consider whether or not centralizing it to one group is something they want to do,” said Hession.

Gracie Limoncelli ’18, a DC representative for Pine Knoll Cluster, said that consistency is something that the task force should look at.

“I believe very much in maintaining some sense of consistency with the process. The way the rules are spelled out in the Blue Book, it’s outlined so they can be really targeted for individuals in individual circumstances. But also, that can potentially give a lot of leeway that different committees will [use to] decide on different things for their own reasons. I think if it’s more consistent across disciplinary responses, that would be a good thing,” said Limoncelli.

The second area which the task force has thought to focus their attention on is the range of responses to DC-level student violations, according to Hession.

Hession said, “There are responses that could lead to separation from school: a student can be dismissed, placed on probation, [or] a student can be placed on warning… There are deans that can issue more low-level responses like censures, dean’s reprimands, and verbal warnings.

There’s a whole range of responses that can happen to a student depending upon what it was that happened and the nature of the rule infraction.”

Miley Kaufman ’19 said that her biggest concern has to do with the Disciplinary Committee’s listening to student voices.

“The one thing I’ve heard that stood out to me is that a lot of times when you walk into the room, they already have a decision made. Yes, they’ll hear you out, but they don’t really listen,” said Kaufman.

According to Hession, the most important job for the committee is to make changes that focus on Andover’s core principles.

Hession said, “You always want to be thinking about what it is that you’re doing [and] why you’re doing it. Is it working, is it helping students, is it supporting them, is it aligned with the values of the school? It’s true with the academic curriculum. It’s true of athletics. It’s true of all aspects of school life. It’s certainly true for behavior and expectations.