Commentary

Switching Off Lights-Out Complaints

In her article “Putting Lights Out to Rest” published on November 6, Tiffany Chang ’19 argued that the policy that requires the lights in Juniors’ rooms to be turned off by 11:00 p.m. every school night is flawed. Chang cited the similar workload to upperclassmen that many Juniors experience and the desire to devote more time to studying as reasons to abolish the policy. As I read Chang’s article, I sympathized with her dilemma. I remember that during my Junior year, I was constantly trying to prove my academic and social worth, so I understand the urge to devote an extra hour to studying or to join as many clubs as possible. But I disagree with Chang’s argument; now, as a Lower, I greatly appreciate the good study and sleeping habits that the Junior lights-out policy instilled in me.

First, Chang claimed that many Juniors have a similar amount of work as do upperclassmen, both academically and extracurricularly. She argued that these commitments make it unreasonable to ask Juniors to complete their assignments before lights-out each night. While it is true that some Juniors take high level science, math or language courses, most Juniors are still taking relatively low-level courses, as they are just starting high school. During their first term at Andover, all Juniors take two pass/fail classes. They have no obligation to attend club meetings consistently because they are not responsible for any, and they are not yet captains of Varsity sports or Coordinators for Community Engagement activities. In general, the school makes every effort to ease Juniors gradually into our rigorous academic environment.

This is not to say that being a Junior at Andover is easy. Juniors have their own challenges to overcome: most are living away from home for the first time and are simultaneously struggling to transition into an incredibly challenging school. These are very real difficulties that older students can easily overlook or underestimate, but Juniors must understand that the workload only increases over time.

Overwhelmed by the abrupt shift in workload when coming to Andover, Juniors may feel as though an extra hour to work may ease the burden of their work, but I think that ultimately, lights-out is more helpful than hurtful. The first few months at Andover are a learning curve. The lights-out policy teaches new students to use their time productively by prioritizing their commitments and recognizing when they are not using their time well. Learning time management skills and the importance of sleep is important for a successful future at Andover. With lights-out, students are urged to complete their work with speed and efficiency, skills that will last them the rest of their Andover career.

Chang argues that the lights out policy “prevents some Juniors from finishing their assignments to the best of their ability.” But Juniors must consider the toll on their emotional and mental well-being, as well as on their social, athletic and academic performance, that results if “the best of their ability” means staying up until 2:00 a.m. to perfect an essay.

Although Juniors may be rolling their eyes right now, the lights-out policy is something that I, in retrospect, appreciate immensely. As much as I resented it at the time, that resentment now seems irrelevant and misguided. I can now recognize that the lights-out policy ensured my academic and emotional success during my first year at Andover. And if you, like Chang, really do desire time management seminars, advice is already offered by the Academic Skills Center.

Nov 12, 2015