Commentary

The Benefit of the Doubt

As the year draws to a close, students have been filling out applications for leadership positions of all kinds. While a diverse range of leadership positions are available on campus, many students covet those of Proctors and Prefects. Though a list of all Proctors and Prefects is not publically available to the student body, word travels fast and everyone inevitably finds out who has been entrusted with the responsibility of being dorm leaders. Within an hour of the announcement, many of us were already aware of who had been selected. Several students expressed their resentment towards some of the newly-chosen Prefects and Proctors with disdainful shrugs, pursed lips, and backhanded comments. I am ashamed to say I participated in this type of behavior.

When I discovered who would be serving as Prefects and Proctors next year, I felt some incredulity. I questioned some of my peers’ abilities to fulfill the enormous responsibilities they had been charged with. I couldn’t understand how some house counselors came to the conclusion that certain students were the most qualified candidates, especially in comparison to some of the students who I knew had applied for the positions without success. Some of my peers agreed with my unsolicited opinions, and hearing their agreement, I felt like my skepticism was validated.

While it is okay to retain some doubt about how much a peer deserved a position, that does not mean we are entitled to vocalize this opinion. Often, competitiveness, jealousy, and preconceived notions can fuel our desire to belittle others, and when we see a peer receive recognition that we don’t approve of, it somehow becomes our prerogative to highlight all their faults and deficiencies to justify our own feelings of bitterness. Especially when it is a recognition or position that we also aspired for, we feel the need to voice indignation and to explain why we were the more deserving candidate.

Ambition may be something that makes us such strong students, artists, and athletes, but our competitive drive can also detach us from each other, making us feel hostile towards peers or overly critical. We are quick to judge and point out flaws, eager to criticize others to elevate ourselves. We become unable to celebrate the accomplishments of our friends and classmates.

Although it can be constructive to be critical, I have realized that a mindset of constant doubt is toxic. Instead of feeling skepticism about the qualifications of my peers, I should have taken a moment to trust in the judgement of house counselors and give all future Prefects and Proctors the benefit of the doubt. As a chosen Prefect for next year, it is my responsibility to give all of my fellow residential leaders the opportunity to take on their new roles without being criticized or questioned. It is not the place of any Andover student to question the ability of our peers to be excellent leaders.

Adrienne Zhang is a two-year Lower from Hong Kong

May 5, 2016