Humorous Honor?

Chris Quazzo

Throughout the Honor Council election assembly, I, and I think it is safe to say everyone, heard an unsettling amount of laughter. It seemed that the overall atmosphere was light and jokey, which felt somewhat incongruous to me since we were electing our classmates for fairly serious positions. We had to select students that we felt embodied what is considered ethical in our community and that we could even trust to handle disciplinary cases that could potentially involve our peers, not to mention ourselves; that seems pretty serious to me.

But that didn’t seem to stop anyone from snickering or evoking those snickers. That’s not to say that I didn’t laugh at all; I did. But, as I was sitting there, I began asking myself if, with these changes and creation of a far more public Honor Council, do people now take it less seriously?

Many of the laughs weren’t intentionally elicited; however, some candidates seemed to take a more comical route with the intent of amusing their classmates. I talked to Junior Alex Goff, one of the candidates, and asked him about the reasoning behind his humorous campaign. He responded that he “perceived this election as no different from an election for, say, grade reps,” which, for him, meant that the “process and ultimate goal remained a constant: to be remembered.” He then remarked on his strategy, commenting, “With laughter and a successful sense of connection from laughter, I would likely create a memorable presence and hopefully be the answer to the question, ‘Who would you like to see again?’” Alex’s astute comments helped clear up most of my confusion about the humor in the election. I don’t think there was any intent of disrespect; the candidates just did what they felt they had necessary to have the opportunity of representing their respective grades and addressing the topic of ethics in our community. And that clearly paid off for Alex because he was recently confirmed as one of the Juniors on the Council. However, I can’t speak for the entire student body and their opinions on the election, particularly about whether or not their laughs had any meaning behind them, so it’s hard to know what the general opinion is on the new Honor Council. But, from what Alex convinced me, those laughs were most likely harmless.

Besides the amount of laughter, I also noticed a considerable lack of applicant diversity, which was ironic to me after hearing questions that asked about the importance of having a diverse variety of students serve on the Council. For starters, there were no Senior candidates, which eliminated one of the most valuable perspectives, seeing as they’re the most mature and have experienced the most in our Upper School community. Secondly, all of the candidates with the exception of two were white males, which might also restrict the diversity of perspectives and backgrounds within the Council. That’s obviously not the candidates’ faults, but it seems unfortunate that the Council didn’t attract a wider variety of applicants—at least from what we could glean from the public elections.

There was also talk about the public election system being a popularity contest, which made me wonder if people cared more about electing someone who embodied admirable moral qualities than they did about electing people they simply liked better. It’s hard to definitively tell because I’m sure there were cases of both, but we do know that this could not have happened with the Disciplinary Committee – the predecessor of the Honor Council –  in place. I’m not saying that one is better than the other because they’re different, but both are flawed in certain areas. Disciplinary Committee was completely secretive and inaccessible to the student body, unless you experienced a disciplinary case firsthand. Honor Council, although more open and inclusive of the community, opens itself up to anyone that the students deem fit to represent them. And yes, we students are responsible, trustworthy, and intelligent, but that doesn’t stop our own personal opinions from clouding our judgment and possibly taking the process less seriously than we should. So who’s to say which is better? We’ll have to let the year unravel and see how our new Honor Council addresses ethics in our community before making any conclusive judgments.