Honor Council Addresses First Issue, Receives Respect and Mixed Reactions


Hedy Gutfreund


[caption id="attachment_3522" align="alignnone" width="500"]Not exactly the graffiti that caused this issue; Photo: HuffingtonPost.com Not exactly the graffiti that caused this issue; Photo: HuffingtonPost.com[/caption]

The third floor men’s bathroom has turned into a crime scene. Or at least an Honor Council infraction scene. On Monday, November 25, gathering was devoted to, for the first time, an Honor Council report. As Mr. Woods told the school, sexist and homophobic language was written on a stall in the bathroom.

But Mr. Woods did not stand alone in addressing this issue. On the stage stood the deans, the four faculty members on Honor Council, Mr. Graf, and Dr. Denevi. In Mr. Woods’ words, the purpose of having so many faculty members behind him was “to show our unity behind it.” Beyond the necessary details of the incident, Mr. Woods, and Mr. Stroup in his own statement, focused on the use of the language rather than on the situation. Mr. Woods explains, “The goal was not to focus on whoever it’s directed towards; the focus was the language itself.”

This was not, however, how Honor Council expected to address its first issue. It is obviously impossible to plan for when an issue of integrity will arise, but scheduling this announcement was particularly difficult, according to Mr. Woods. “It just happened to be a coincidence that we learned about this last week [before the week of November 25], and we wanted to do it at an assembly but not displace any pre-programmed activities,” he said. “This was done rather quickly, because the issue arose, and we felt we had to address it before the Thanksgiving break. But there was a lot of input, and a lot of thoughtful people came together. So with some tweaks, I imagine this will be the format [for future Honor Council issues].”

Mr. Woods also acknowledged that this assembly “coincided with announcing the Honor Council student members,” which was another reason the Honor Council adults and the administration “thought it would be a good assembly yesterday [November 25].” But in the future, the students recently announced to be on Honor Council will be involved in the proceedings. As he puts it, “Students were not involved in this because of the timing. We didn’t feel it was fair to bring in the new members of Honor Council and drop this on them and say in addition to all your work, help us think through this.”

Still, that does not mean students will not be involved in discussing this. The Honor Council will be holding a breakfast on Thursday, December 12 for that very purpose. Mr. Woods says that this breakfast “is our way of saying we realize that students talking to students is a more appropriate reaction to this.”

Students have had varied reactions to the format of the assembly, which Mr. Woods fully understands. As he puts it, “Just walking through the halls yesterday, I heard the entire gamut, from thank you for doing that, to I think it’s a bit of an overreaction, to they were probably just goofing around, so all of the reactions you would expect. But I think that’s a good thing, to get the community talking about this issue.”

Freshman Sophia Lancaster, a member of the Honor Council, was in the unique position of having a prospective student shadow her on the day of this gathering. Sophia said that she and her shadow discussed it, and that the visitor “asked what it was about, because her school doesn’t have anything like it. She mentioned being a little intimidated, and when I said it was pretty solemn, she definitely agreed.” Reflecting on her dual role as part of the Honor Council and as a host, she says, “I think it was a bit of a shame because she didn’t get to witness the fun Latin spirit that’s usually at gathering.”

Other students still question how effective this gathering really is. “I just don’t know how effective it’ll be. The bathroom graffiti has been there for years, and there’s more there almost three days after it was repainted,” remarks senior Jake Schlossberg. “It’s going to take a lot of discussion.” An anonymous senior thought the entire gathering experience was “really uncomfortable.” She “commend[s] them for making the discipline process more open to the community, but that shouldn’t involve shaming the whole community for one person’s crime. That said, if the Honor Council’s purpose is to have everyone discuss the problem, then they succeeded.”

Still, though, Mr. Woods was pleased with the student response to the gathering. “I thought the students were very respectful no matter what their opinion.” He, along with the Honor Council, hopes to see many students at the discussion on December 12 at 7:30 AM, location to be determined.