Commentary

Andover and Me

As the fall unfolds, conversations about what defines a healthy relationship have dominated our campus. But, one crucial relationship is often ignored in these conversations: the relationship between Andover and its students. Attending Andover is the greatest commitment that many students have made, and it has its benefits and consequences. It is important that we occasionally reevaluate the the state of our mental health on this campus.

As ultimate week arrives and finals loom over our heads, stressed and overworked students become the norm on our campus. Although our complaints are often melodramatic or sarcastic, there is truth to them. While all students understood before matriculating that rigor came with their acceptance into Andover, it is difficult to prepare for accompanying anxiety and stress. Students came here to be challenged, but being challenged should not mean being pushed beyond our breaking point.

Students should not feel committed to stay at Andover for the wrong reasons. A graduation diploma or a yearning for prestige or fear of shame should not be grounds to stay on this campus and is not a healthy way to approach an education. At an elite, high-pressure institution like Andover, it is easy for focus to shift from a love of learning and personal fulfillment to grade point averages and the Ivy League. Of course, absolutely nothing is worth deteriorating mental health.

If the vast majority of students are stressed in a way that is unhealthy, maybe the problem isn’t the students. We can no longer tiptoe around important issues like stress, anxiety and unhealthy lifestyles. We must tackle them head on.

A proposed Empathy and Balance Schedule would reduce the stress of most students by allowing students to focus and hone in on two or three subjects per day. It follows a F-Th-W-Th-W schedule, so during the week each class meets for fewer periods. A large contributor to the stress we face is the multitude of commitments that we are trying to simultaneously address. If each day we only had to tackle two or three subjects, instead of five or six, it would be easier to concentrate on those commitments in a more meaningful and less stressful manner.

In addition, the schedule has a built-in wellness block after class on Friday, taking a portion of the athletics and community engagement time slot. This dedicated time would allow the school to explore all the topics of Personal and Community Education classes more in depth over a student’s entire Andover career.
A new schedule would allow a student to balance academics, extracurriculars and their well-being. Mental health days are also a possible addition to the new schedules, prioritizing mental health over schoolwork. Similar to personal time, they would allow a student to be fully excused from their commitment and recuperate from the stress or anxiety they may be experiencing. The implementation of a new schedule is crucial to protect students’ mental health and to put an end to the toxic lifestyles that Andover can create.

With the upcoming changes that are happening to the strategic plan, we hope that intensive and productive actions will be taken to combat the failing mental health of students on campus. A new schedule is key.

Nov 5, 2015