Editorial: Not Clowning Around

Clowns. We all know them, but what do we know about them? They’re big, wear white makeup, and have red noses that squeak. Last week, rumors of a prowling armed shooter dressed as one such clown, a mere two miles away at Merrimack College, rippled across campus and social media. Although the incident turned out to be a hoax, the fear was palpable on Andover soil.

This is one of two such scares that has plagued the school in the last few weeks. In a recent AllSchool Meeting, there was a similar moment in which students’ sense of safety felt imminently at risk. While the real danger in both situations was nonexistent, the perceived threat was nevertheless frightening. In the disturbance mentioned above, terror spread through sensationalized tweets and status updates, and in the latter, through hushed murmurs amid the confusion of the Chapel. After both of these incidents, many students were asking themselves and one another: what would have happened if the threat were real?

Phillips Academy Public Safety (PAPS) serves as a crucial component in maintaining campus safety. We commend PAPS for all that it does to protect our campus, yet we find ourselves lacking a deeper connection with the officers who keep us safe. We must strengthen our relationship with PAPS in order to bring Andover’s security measures to their fullest potential.

Whether or not we realize it, we live in a bubble. It gives us idyllic comfort as we bustle about campus each day, from classes to activities, worrying about our academic and extracurricular responsibilities without paying much attention to external threats. Our “Andover Bubble” allows us to slip into insular thinking, as if Andover and the rest of the world are discrete communities and life here is all that should concern us.

The armed clown scare only minutes down the road and the prolonged pause at ASM two weeks ago reminded us that our bubble can, in fact, be popped. Whether we like to think about it or not, there are very possible situations in which PAPS may be the only force protecting our student body. Even now, the presence of PAPS is what allows us to retain our sense of security.

Students encounter PAPS officers on a daily basis, whether it be passing them on crosswalks, seeing them drive by, or having them unlock dorm rooms. However, few of us have personally connected with a PAPS officer. Most of us don’t look beyond the officer’s uniform. The mission of PAPS is to foster a safe environment for students. However, without any insight into the individual, students often feel removed and disconnected from our PAPS officers, which diminishes the presence of trust that we try so hard to cultivate in other parts of student life.

To achieve these aims, the school could introduce PAPS officers to new students in the same way that Sykes and CAMD staff are presented. This would both help students to appreciate the important role that PAPS plays in their lives and encourage them to connect.

Moreover, the responsibility of fostering strong relationships between PAPS officers and students falls on both parties: as students, we should reach out and take the time to know the people who keep us safe, and, as the measure of protection and comfort provided, the administration should familiarize the student body with those who risk everything to protect us everyday.

This editorial represents the consensus of The Phillipian, vol. CXXXIX.

Oct 12, 2016