By Marion Givhan
How much does the gender of the members matter on the Honor Council? My friend, a young woman who ran for the freshman spot on the Council, was the first person to inform me of the shocking fact that Taylor Baird (C’15) and Paniz Rezaeerod (C’15) are the only two – two! – female members. I thought, but wait, what if a girl doesn’t get elected this year? What would happen when Baird and Rezaeerod graduated? Would more girls be elected next year? I campaigned strongly for my friend for two reasons: 1) I thought she would do an amazing job based on her experience with similar endeavors, and 2) I grew worried about the male-female ratio.
Unfortunately, my friend did not win. It felt like a high school election, a popularity contest. The question was not who would do the best job, but who could charm the pants off the most people in the shortest amount of time. This was incredibly disheartening, as David Prehn (C’16), the Chair of the Honor Council, said, “what is most important for Honor Council membership is who will do the best job.” I don’t think that played a strong role in the election this year. Granted, as freshman, we do not personally know everyone who is running, but each candidate wrote a statement of intent, and those should have been read and taken seriously in order to vote for the person who would best uphold the Honor Code.
Members of the Honor Council hold positions of respect by both students and faculty alike. What does it say that mostly men hold these positions? It could mean the students trust men more and feel a stronger connection, or the students in their year had complete confidence that they would work the hardest, be fair and wise, and demonstrate the values of the University. I believe that all the members on the Council do this, but I begin to worry now that the number of women seems to be dwindling, from six women (three years ago), to five (last year), to two.
There is no way to regulate how many women and men are voted onto the Council, unless the University specifically designates an equal number of positions for men and women. This would not be a valid option, as the number of women and men who want to run fluctuate every year. It also defeats the democratic process of the elections, and does not place enough trust in the students to vote for the people who will best represent Sewanee.
This being said, please take great care when voting for people who run for this kind of position. Consider if they will dedicate themselves to the job, be passionate, considerate, and level-headed, and also if they are the best candidate. Do not vote for someone for the reason that he/she “is a cool person.” The Honor Council deserves more than that.