In high school I served on my school’s Honor Council, basically a court that listened to students accused of cheating. We gave an opinion on what punishment we believed the student deserved, and then showed that to the leaders of the school, who then made their decision. There were a total of 20 students who were elected by their grades, and I served sophomore, junior, and senior year. People understood why the Honor Council was necessary, but hated it with a passion, no matter how we promoted it. Meeting the honor council was intimidating as hell, it was seven students and two faculty members at a round table, who would interview them asking for their story and what they believed they did wrong. I saw students cry their eyes out, lie through their teeth, and not come to school to avoid meeting us. It hurt to give kids punishments that crushed their chances into college and affected their academic standing, but it also felt necessary to uphold academic honesty standards. While this script does highlight and detail what actually occurs, it's an extremely brief example of how much thought actually goes into the process.
7 March 2017
Short story: pathos and ethos
Tell Us What Happened?
(Note)This story is comprised of fictional characters but follows an example of cases I've heard while serving
It's 12:30, time for lunch, but not just any lunch. No, today is one of those days, I'll be heading up the English rooms to listen yet another unfortunate mistake made by a fellow student. We are beginning to average one case every couple weeks, I wish people could just understand the importance of following the honor code and I could enjoy my lunch. Last weeks was pretty simple, the student cheated on a homework assignment and immediately came to the truth. His punishment will require him to have a thirty minute meeting with the Honor Council chair, reflecting on what he did wrong and how we can grow from the situation. He also received a warning in his file, basically saying he's screwed if he messes up again.
As I walk into the room, it's the same old thing. I see six of my fellow members, two faculty members, and the dean. As we quickly eat pizza, we exchange a few jokes and talk about our days. It's become so routine I don't even really recognize the severity of what this entering student is about to go through. We finally get down to business: go over some details, highlight what we want to ask them, and try to see where they exactly broke the honor code. Once we finish, we "invite" the student and their advisor inside the room.
The student timidly walks, avoids eye contact, quickly takes a seat, and struggles to breathe. The Honor Council chair, Mr. Morris tries to break the awkward silence...
Mr. Morris: Would either of you enjoy any pizza.
Jackson: No thank you
Jackson's advisor: Yes please
Mr. Morris: Alright then lets begin. (Reads script) Good afternoon, Jackson Brown, you are appearing before Honor Council today to because you have been accused of violating the honor code. You will tell us what happened, and then we will ask you questions. Next you will leave the room and we will consider your case. I will be typing the entire session."
Jackson: Alright well it was Tuesday night around 9 pm, and I had just gotten home from practice. Remembering that I needed to study for my math test, I tried to study that and complete my paper due, and do other homework. I was so stressed with other stuff that once it got to Wednesday, I wasn't prepared for my math test at all. Once I saw the test, I hardly knew anything on there so I began to panic. I glanced at my friend's paper and just tried to see how they set up the problem. Not really thinking I wrote done what they had.
Mr Morris: Did you not realize there were two different versions of the test?
Jackson: I had a poor grade going into the test, and I was just worried that I was going to bring it even lower. I know cheating was not the best option but I was panicking.
Jury member: Did you just copy that problem or others too?
Jackson: Just that one
Jury member: What about number 8? You clearly have the same thing written down as your friend and they are different problems.
Jackson: Oh well I guess that one too (tensions in the room build)
Mr. Morris: Now Jackson, do you realize what you just did? You lied to the Honor Council, the people deliberating your academic standing. Don't you understand the severity of that, it's not just about cheating. It's about what the honor code means to you, what does that say about your character. How do you want to rebuild that trust in the community? Because right now, you can't expect us to trust you with anything
Jackson: Well I definitely agree with the honor code, it promotes academic honesty, and I think that's important to have in our classes.
Jury member 1: It's not just about class, it's about the community, you should be able to lay your backpack down and go to the bathroom, and have it come back and be there. That's a sense of trust, it's not just cheating, it's values that make our community what it is.
Mr. Morris: Mr. Walton (advisor), would you like to say anything on Jackson's behalf?
Mr. Walton: Yes I would, Jackson is a great kid. He's caring and always willing to help others in our advisory group. He always contributes to conversation and always respects others. He made a mistake, and I think he's beginning to understand that. He definitely needs to reevaluate his actions, and hopefully he can grow from this experience.
Mr. Morris: Well we thank you for joining us today, we will talk about your case and make a decision. Jackson you will need to see the dean after school to see your decision, and if we don't have it come before school tomorrow.
(Jackson and Mr. Walton walk out)
Jury members collectively: Wow....
Mr. Morris: The sad thing is he wouldn't have even gotten a huge punishment. He would've gotten a citation in his file and had to do the honor mentor ship program (answer 10 questions, and discuss with Mr. Morris, takes 2 hours).
Jury member 2: I don't think he got what he actually did, sure he was sorry he cheated but does he get why it's actually enforced?
Mr. Morris: This goes back to overarching goal, get rid of the idea that we are out to catch kids cheating, and promote strong morals. We don't want them to cheat because it's not allowed, we don't want them to cheat or break the honor code because it's wrong.
Jury member 1: Since he lied to our faces, this completely changes the case, it was clearly not a dumb mistake.
Jury member 3: I don't think it's time to focus on the punishment as much yet, how do we get him to see it was wrong and not just resent us for getting him in trouble?
TO BE CONTINUED NEXT WEEK