Two weeks ago, new students were exposed to the first of many Andover traditions. Rounding the corner onto Chapel Avenue, they were greeted by the roar of Blue Key Orientation Leaders clad in tie-dyed t-shirts and bearing warm smiles. Many returning students remember the culture shock and excitement they felt during their first few days, and even weeks, at Andover. In the then unfamiliar environment, many of us looked to the older students to learn the ropes: a new routine, a new culture and some new slang.
Today, we are those older students. New students look to us to model what is expected of them at Andover. Incoming students do not know what “normal” is at Andover – they learn how to behave from the example that returning students set.
Too often though, Andover does not change when it needs to. We continue to teach potentially dangerous traditions to incoming classes: we tell them of grinding at dances in Susie’s, of an exclusive culture of hookups that largely relies on looks and set-ups and of engaging in intimate relations in places like the Cochran Sanctuary in order to avoid House Counselors. We perpetuate these traditions by teaching them to incoming students before they even have a chance to make their own decisions.
In a 2013 Letter to the Editor signed by 21 male team Captains, Tyler Olkowski ’13 wrote, “[Seniors possess] the ability to positively influence the opinions of their underclassmen teammates… We are looked up to, whether we realize it or not. With seniority, popularity and respect comes a platform that must be used to improve our community.”
While it was written two years ago, we believe that this article still rings true. In light of the recent sexual assault case at St. Paul’s, we as a boarding school community have the opportunity to talk about healthy relationships when more people are listening. Such is human nature – current events spur conversation. Andover itself has increased the level of conversation surrounding such topics within faculty meetings, training for Proctors and Prefects and upcoming All-School Meetings. Isham Health Center and Graham House have begun adopting additional measures to increase support for students who have been sexually assaulted and are making a tremendous effort to educate students about such topics.
In order for such changes to be sustainable, however, we as students must work to change this damaging culture by holding themselves to a higher standard. We must stop perpetuating low standards of respect and, instead, use our influence to jumpstart positive change in the Andover community. As the school year begins, student leaders should take it upon themselves to think about their words and actions so that, when confronted by a harmful “tradition,” they can turn to new students and say, in the words of Jennifer Elliott ’94, Dean of Students, “That’s not how we do things here.”
This editorial represents the views of The Phillipian Editorial Board CXXXVIII.