Like many others last Friday, I ventured to the Cochran Chapel to see world-renowned primatologist and activist Jane Goodall recount her life story to Andover students, faculty, and alumni. Two hours later, I left the doors of the chapel most stricken by her point of the significance of human respect to nature, animals, and most importantly, each other. Disrespect and violation of Andover’s motto, Non Sibi, have surfaced multiple times over the span of the 2015-2016 school year. Numerous Commentary articles have been published about upsetting examples of student disrespect on campus, such as the Grasshopper ticket frenzy, line cutting in Paresky Commons, and small disrespectful acts we encounter everyday. Jane Goodall said she believes human disrespect is partially caused by advanced devices hindering human connection, but I believe that the acts of disrespect recently seen on campus are perpetuated by Andover’s competitive culture.
The competitive culture that exists in the Andover community is no secret to students or faculty. It perches in the backs of students’ minds and influences our everyday actions and choices, whether athletically, extracurricular, or academically. Some argue that the competitive nature of our campus is the reason Andover students are so successful, and to an extent, it is. Competitiveness challenges us – it stretches us to think, work, and try our absolute hardest and to put our foremost efforts into everything we do. But what some fail to realize is that our constant urge to be ahead and hold an advantage over our classmates perpetuates a separate culture entirely – the culture of disrespect.
Living in a community that values high achieving students and glorifies people who matriculate to top colleges causes current students to adopt the mindset that it is a virtue to compete their hardest for personal gain. The notion of “get ahead, get ahead, get ahead” is pedagogically drilled into us students. When this mindset is implemented into everyday situations, students put their wants in front of others and disrespectful acts can often be the result. The deeper effect is that people conclude Andover students only think about themselves and simply do not care about others, which is the complete opposite of our school’s motto.
There are undoubtedly many Andover students who can easily separate when and when not to put themselves before others, but the fact that so many issues of disrespect have surfaced on campus this year is troubling. Because we are a community, we should be lifting each other up, not tearing each other down. To rid Andover of the culture of disrespect, people need to take time to think about how their actions and comments influence the people and community around them. As Jane Goodall said, “Only when the head and heart work in harmony can human beings attain their true potential.” So, Andover, let’s think before we act and attain our true potential as a community that fully embodies Non Sibi.