So You Think You Know SAC

Wilson Hall, home of SAC

Every school year, anywhere from 15 to 40 of these meetings occur (data collected since 2018) and although instances take place where SAC cases seem like common knowledge, the true events taking place within meetings are largely unknown. All persons involved hold themselves to the highest degree of non-disclosure. Due to this aspect of SAC, a mystifying image exists of the group—for better or for worse.

The general consensus on SAC is that it is a vital aspect of school to maintain a healthy and appropriate educational environment. Members of the community on and off the committee agree that understanding people make mistakes is an important part of SAC.

Mrs. Barth, Associate Dean of Student Life, emphasizes SAC provides both disciplinary and restorative action. Likewise, Mr. Mittal, a faculty member on SAC, hopes to “pave a path” in order for students to better understand and respect the standards of the community. 

A part of that path is the investigation before the actual SAC meeting. From the moment a violation of a school rule is brought to a dean’s attention, the student life office spends hours holding conversations with individuals to accumulate as much information as possible.

Then, within the SAC meeting, the three faculty members and three students utilize the time to ask questions, gaining additional clarity . Zach Hart ’22, a new member of SAC, comments that working with faculty allows for a collaborative environment in which they “add a different perspective” that is “more mature with more experiences.” Mr. Mittal agrees, adding the student members “bring insight to the student experience that faculty lacks.” Together, the six representatives “dialogue to come to a unanimous decision”—one that will respond to the violation with support as well as consequences.

A possibly lesser-known fact about SAC, though, is that the decision is simply a suggestion—Mrs. Buck, Head of School, and Dr. Kent, Associate Head of School, evaluate it before finalization. Ultimately, they decide whether or not to move forward with that suggestion. Upon hearing this detail, four-year senior Michael Filippelli’22 notes his surprise and verbalizes his apprehension; he considers the idea that since Mrs. Buck recently joined WRA, she may not possess the same insight as those on the committee. He argues the case should be contained to the six members present at the meeting.

On the other side, Mr. Mittal counters that Mrs. Buck has been entrusted “to steer the direction of the community,” so she should be allowed to do just that.

Filippelli raises a common issue associated with SAC: confidentiality. It is one of the most important characteristics of the group for a number of reasons. Mrs. Barth states, “Confidentiality protects the student and everyone involved.” Similarly, Hart describes confidentiality as maintaining “high integrity for the student being investigated.” Mr. Mittal believes it is, in fact, confidentiality that allows students the security of the knowledge he “won’t treat them any differently and no one else will treat them differently.”

Although SAC members view confidentiality positively, they also understand it incites the creation of rumors—true and false. Hart describes the experience as “frustrating” for him because people ask questions, which he can not answer. Thus, the rumors continue to spread. For change to occur, he reasons it “should be addressed from an entire community perspective.”

The situation is one Mr. Mittal perceives as an opportunity. He urges students to learn more about the SAC process and tells students to “be critical of information” unless it comes directly from the source. The involvement of a third party confuses and often blurs communication of events, causing faulty knowledge.

Every time a student sits before SAC, the committee works to dig out the truth and eliminate any falsities. Meanwhile, the battle wages on between rumors and confidentiality. Ultimately, though, the battle seems to be in the hands of the student body.

Hannah Ma ’22

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