To DC or Not to DC?
By ADIZA ALASA '19
Disciplinary Committee (DC) statements discussing students’ infractions and respective punishments make for some of the most interesting morning assemblies, but they may be stopping soon. A committee of faculty and students has been reevaluating the entire disciplinary process, including these readings, over the past month.
José Ruiz, the Dean of Students, has wanted to review the disciplinary process since he first arrived at Milton six years ago, but reform didn’t come until last spring’s protests against the DC’s failure to properly punish racism and bigotry. Over the following summer, the administration made several changes to the handbook in order to highlight the issue of harassment, as well as modifying the handbook’s standards to reflect the School’s core values. Ruiz admitted there has been a rise in DC hearings from last year to this year but cannot say for sure whether the changes in the handbook have caused the increase.
After conducting research about the disciplinary processes of other schools and comparing these processes to Milton for inspiration, the DC, along with a group comprised of students, faculty and the administration, has been seeking feedback from the student body on how effective and fair Milton’s disciplinary process is. On May 1, Ruiz emailed a questionnaire to all students asking “Have you ACTUALLY read the Student Handbook for the 2017-2018 school year?” Students who answered “no” received no further questions but those who said “yes” completed a survey about the disciplinary system.
The participation in the questionnaire was limited: only about 40% of the student body responded to the questionnaire. Ultimately, only 170 were able to take the second survey. The same participation issue arose during the open meetings the DC held in Withington during lunch periods on May 8-10—there was a disappointing turnout of only 17 students total participating in the 9 periods of open meetings.
The conversations in Withington examined the logic behind suspension as a punishment and looked in to potentially reducing the number of days for suspension. Right now, an academic integrity violation results in a 5 day suspension for the student. Mr. Ruiz said that when a student appears before the DC for plagiarism, it is often because the assignment was last minute and the student was overwhelmed by the work. Taking students away from classes as a punishment puts them further behind than they already were and may therefore lead to even more plagiarism. “In that situation, does suspension make sense? And if it does, I don’t think 5 days makes sense,” Ruiz said. Despite the questionable logic of suspensions, Ruiz explains very few students who appear before the DC repeat an offense, which suggests that the current disciplinary system is successful in correcting behavior.
Another area of focus has been the academic integrity policy in general. The DC is putting together a proposal for implementing changes regarding academics that the community could see at start 2018-2019 school year. Seth Gordon (II), who has been working with the DC as they revamp the disciplinary process, said they are working toward having more lenient policies for academic violations on the first offense, and then stricter ones on the second offers so as to give aid to struggling students while also holding students accountable for their actions. “We want to provide more support for a student but also recognize that after a student is given that second opportunity, if they don’t utilize that, then it speaks more to the student and less to the [process],” Gordon said. He also has been drawing attention to the issue of how minorities and other marginalized groups are impacted by the disciplinary system.
The DC will continue to meet over the summer to discuss further changes to the system. However, due to the extensive time the revision will take, changes won’t come too soon: the infamous DC readings at assemblies will continue next year.