Let’s pretend that five former editors of the Piedmont Highlander just won the Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of the Syrian refugee crisis. Community members want to paint a mural in the journalists’ honor in the breezeway.
But what would be the process for that? And why should we paint a mural? Who should decide whether these journalists, who risked their lives for the common good, deserve a monument on campus?
The same questions have arisen in the face of the recent proposal to build a Wall of Honor in the library, which would feature PHS graduates who have gone on to join the military or organizations such as the Red Cross and the US Foreign Service.
As an editorial board, we value the service of these PHS graduates, but we are split as to whether or not the proposal should pass and concerned about how it is being discussed in the community. Proposals like these should have a standardized process for approval in order to fully consider the nuances and create opportunity for thoughtful community feedback.
As part of a standardized process, a set of criteria needs to be established. One criterion that we should consider is whether a campus display honoring graduates should honor them only for activities that directly involve the school. PHS generally does not recognize its graduates for their service to society — no matter how admirable — and it would be highly impractical to honor every graduate who leaves a positive impact on the world. Even the Ambassador Chris Stevens Memorial Library, which we support, should have gone through this feedback process. Look at current displays around the school: for example, the Piedmont Sports Hall of Fame’s plaques honor PHS graduates for their accomplishments as student athletes during their time at PHS.
Given this, while we recognize that the parents who proposed the idea of a Wall of Honor should have a way to honor their children’s service, a better place for the Wall of Honor might be the Veteran’s Hall. That would seem to be the appropriate choice; it would avoid honoring one form of service over others and promoting one career path over another in the halls of PHS.
In order for proposals like the Wall of Honor to come to fruition, we want a standardized procedure for submitting and approving them. ASB, the Student Senate, Site Council, the School Board, the administration, the parents and the students should all have some sort of say in the process. All of these groups have become involved in the process for the Wall of Honor, but we should create a standard set of criteria and method of dialogue for future proposals.
Finally, while the editorial board did not agree on whether a Wall of Honor should be located in the school library, we agreed that the school should create a system that allows proposals like it to be heard.
That way, when we win our Pulitzers, we can be assured of a proper process.