HEC hosts upper school general sessions, discusses ethical decision-making before finals week


Photo credit: Maia Alvarez

Chair of Honor Education Council Rachel Heyman (’23) discusses her perspective on a scenario during the HEC general session Friday, Jan. 13. At the bi-weekly general sessions, upper school students join HEC members to discuss real-world ethical dilemmas, learn about the honor code and get advice on moral situations of their own.

By Maia Alvarez, Features Editor

Making ethical decisions in both academic and social settings can be difficult, especially around finals week.

In response to this challenge, Honor Education Council hosted a general session for upper school students Friday, Jan. 13, to discuss ethical scenarios and connect with members of the board. These general sessions have been available since the beginning of the school year, and students can attend on the second and fourth Friday of each month during the mentorship block in either the Lantern Room or the Parlor.

HEC focuses on upholding Archer’s core values of empathy, integrity and responsibility by educating the community about the handbook and honor code. When either of these are violated, HEC holds hearings to decide on next steps the student and administration should take. However, sophomore HEC member Allie Yang said there is more to the council than the hearings, such as the general sessions, where they strive to build trust in the community on a student-to-student basis.

“If the only exposure the school community is getting to HEC is the rules or the hearings … that’s not going to build the bridge that we want to build,” Yang said. “These general sessions have no strings attached. [They are] not about any student. There are no consequences. It’s only about discussion. That opens up a space for us to all talk together.”

In the general sessions, students can join HEC members in discussing philosophical ethical dilemmas and localizing them to the Archer students’ experience to encourage attendees to ask questions about morality. Dean of Student Life, Equity and Inclusion Samantha Hazell-O’Brien is one of the HEC advisers who works with the representatives to hold hearings and plan presentations and scenarios for all school and general session meetings.

“In the servery, you’re going to self-checkout and you see a friend that didn’t beep all of the items, and it’s like, ‘Okay, do I say something in this moment? Do I protect my friendship? Do I try to do the right thing?’” Hazell-O’Brien said when localizing the trolley problem to school life. “You’re making that moral decision at a school where we expect you to abide by the handbook. So it’s interesting when you take these very philosophical dilemmas and then try to make them unique to our school community.”

If the only exposure the school community is getting to HEC is the rules or the hearings … that’s not going to build the bridge that we want to build.

— Allie Yang ('25)

Students can also use these sessions to get to know their HEC representatives on a deeper level. Senior chair of HEC Rachel Heyman (‘23) has been a part of the council since freshman year. Since the council is made up of three representatives per grade in upper school, Heyman acknowledged the importance of having student voices in larger moral discussions at hearings and general sessions.

“We know what it feels like to be in that situation or what goes through people’s brains when they make certain decisions [as] people who have gone through similar things,” Heyman said. “That’s super important to factor in when deciding consequences or when looking into reflection or the future. It’s just hearing everyone’s perspective and getting a younger perspective as well.”

With finals week in progress, HEC reminds students to focus on their wellbeing to better their decision-making during the stressful week — a topic they’ll later present in a video at an upper school meeting. Hazell-O’Brien will leave more details about the next general session in February in a future “A Look Ahead” email.

“It’s really important to take care of yourself. That’s one of the biggest things that cause people to make the decisions that they do,” Heyman said. “Making sure to reduce your stress as much as possible and take things one step at a time, like continuing to be kind to yourself will get you the furthest. And if you were to make a mistake, it is not the end of the world, and we’re all here to help and support you, however we can.”