Student Conduct Task Force Hopes to Incorporate Restorative Justice in Disciplinary Committee System

Andover’s Student Conduct Task Force recently completed a new proposal that, if approved, will revamp the current Disciplinary Committee (D.C.) system. The group, composed of several students and faculty members, is aiming to finalize and begin implementing the proposal by fall term next year.

Established earlier this year in response to demands for change in Andover’s disciplinary system, the task force gathered during the winter term to create the proposal. The proposal was recently presented to the administration for further revision.

The student task force was created to revise the D.C. system by incorporating principles of restorative justice, which focuses on learning from the experience rather than simply punishing the student at fault. Rohan Kapoor ’23, a member of the task force, believes that the punitive nature of the school’s current system fails to change student behavior after the D.C.

“It’s very much punishment over growth, and while that is necessary in some cases, in most it is not. It shouldn’t be like, ‘Oh, you do one thing, it’s all gone for you.’ I don’t think that should ever be the system. I believe in second chances, and I think everyone at this school should have a second chance, no matter what,” said Kapoor.

Theo Baker ’23, another member of the task force, believes that transparency is a main problem with the system as it is now. According to Baker, many students who have gone through the D.C. process felt completely unprepared for the potential consequences they might face due to the lack of knowledge students on campus have with regards to the disciplinary system.

“It’s a very opaque process. Because a DC looks a little different for every person, going into it, the student doesn’t know exactly what’s on the table. A student might end up with a suspension, might end up with probation—which is the most likely outcome right now—or a censure. But beforehand, there’s no real way of understanding what outcomes will look like,” said Baker.

If implemented, the proposal aims to increase transparency in the D.C. system through a report, released every term, composed entirely of anonymous information about D.C.’s that occurred throughout the year. The report will allow students on campus to understand the inner workings of the D.C. system and the potential consequences they may face.

“The biggest [change] from a student standpoint is that, each quarter, there would be a release of information to the student body about what is happening on campus, some sort of anonymized but somewhat detailed account of behaviors that have been known to have happened on campus and the responses that they received. That right there is accountability that we have never seen from the D.C. process. And I think it’s really important to demystify everything that happens behind closed doors,” said Baker.

According to Baker, many students on campus feel that the opacity of the current system has led to bias and unfair treatment amongst students of different backgrounds. The new proposal aims to change that by improving faculty accountability.

“It seems like a lot of people have a horror story. At least from the student perception, because we have so little information about what’s going on, things have seemed unfair… We’re moving toward a more centralized system so there’s less perception of unequal treatment depending on the cluster, there’s more faculty representation, and more voices in meetings that decide what goes to what levels, and particularly working with CaMD and Brace,” said Baker.

Brian Masse ’23, another member of the task force, became interested in joining the task force after hearing about the experiences of students who had gone through the D.C process and those who feared reporting an incident because of how muddled the system seemed. Through the task force, he hopes to create a more effective and approachable system.

Masse said, “Much of the reason I decided to join the task force was because of the friends and peers I saw struggle to go through, or even engage with it. Believing that accountability and responsibility are two of the biggest strengths of any community, seeing our D.C. fail to uphold either is deeply troubling to me. I joined this task force in the hopes that I would be able to implement more transparent and consistent structures into this system, such that any student feels comfortable to report a community standard violation without academic, social, or physical repercussions.”

The proposal is currently being reviewed by the administration and is awaiting approval. The hope is that implementation of the new system will begin this fall, according to Kapoor.

“I know we had hoped next fall was going to be kind of the benchmark set time, but I don’t think it’s been approved yet. I think we’ll wait to see if that happens, because it’s a lot of work to completely overhaul it in one term. If it does get approved, I think we could get it done in the fall,” said Kapoor.