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Behind the scenes: The Disciplinary Council

Betsey Bennett, Staff Writer

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Each year in May, Dean of Student Life Dr. Susan Delanty invites all rising juniors and seniors to apply to serve on the Disciplinary Council for the following school year.

The Disciplinary Council is a committee that addresses student violations of school rules as outlined in the Family Handbook. Once the issue has been funneled through teachers and administrators and reported to the Dean of Students, the Disciplinary Council is called, Delanty said.

“[The Disciplinary Council] is responsible for determining the truth of the allegation against the student and for recommending to the Head of the Upper Division an appropriate disciplinary response,” Delanty said. “The council will hear statements from those individuals involved in the offense and will call upon the student in question to supply an account of his or her behavior.”

The Disciplinary Council consists of nine members: the Dean of Students, four faculty members, and four students. There are also two student alternates and one faculty alternate, she said.

Alternates step in when council members do not feel that they can keep an impartial perspective on the case, Head of Upper Division Dr. Jessica Levenstein said.

“There are times when a student or a faculty member needs to recuse themselves because they are too close to the student who is coming before the council,” she said.

The faculty members on the council are elected by the faculty through a nomination system, Levenstein said. They can nominate themselves or nominate other faculty members, and serve for two years.

Student members are chosen from a list of applicants, Levenstein said. Delanty receives between 20 and 25 student applications each year.

“I applied because I thought it would be interesting to be on the Disciplinary Council and that my perspective and my experiences could be helpful,” Anonymous 1, a current student on the council, said. “I think the Disciplinary Council is important because it can help the administration understand the situation better and have the input and advice of others from diverse backgrounds.”

“Throughout my years at the school, I have learned to listen to people from both sides of each situation, and I feel this allows me to fit well for the council,” Anonymous 2, another current student on the council, said. “I wanted to help students grow and learn from their actions, and so I consider this an important and rewarding task to undertake.”

Once on the council, members do not simply vote on a response, Delanty said.

“We come to a consensus that makes all of us comfortable, and then we give that recommendation to Dr. Levenstein,” Delanty said.

The council meetings are structured around questions from council members, Anon 1 said.

“Because the council is composed of students and teachers alike, there is a wide range of perspectives, which allows the council to better understand the case,” Anonymous 2 said.

There are several expectations for members of the Disciplinary Council.

First, confidentiality is essential, Levenstein said.

“We find that they are in fact very good at that,” Levenstein said. “In my experience, the students on the Disciplinary Council take their role on the council very seriously, and they respect the rules of the school.”

Second, members must be available for council meetings.

“When there is an incident, Dr. Delanty will call everybody, usually during a break period, to briefly describe the case,” Levenstein said. “They generally have a common free period on their schedule so they can all meet.”

However, the council rarely meets, Delanty said.

Third, members must share their honest opinions, Delanty said.

“I tell the students in their very first meeting that their voice is really valuable,” Delanty said. “We don’t want to hear them tell us what they think we want to hear, we want to hear what they think.”

“It feels like there is a lot of weight in our decisions, but it is good to know that it is a group discussion,” Anonymous 1 said.

The current model for the Disciplinary Council has existed for the past eight or nine years, Levenstein said.

“It was a conscious move to pull most discipline away from the grade deans,” Levenstein said. “If the grade dean is also the one enforcing discipline, it’s really hard for the student to have the feeling that their dean is their advocate.”

The Disciplinary Council has not yet met this year, aside from an introductory meeting, Anonymous 2 said.

For Anonymous 3, who served on the Disciplinary Council last year, the experience was challenging but rewarding.

“When deliberating serious issues like the ones the Disciplinary Council faces regularly, I tried to place myself in the students’ shoes and fight for the best interests of both the student and the community,” Anonymous 3 said. “It is truly a daunting but important task to serve on the Disciplinary Council, and to be quite honest while that can be scary in the moment, it’s really a fulfilling task at the end of the day.”

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Behind the scenes: The Disciplinary Council