More Than Thoughts and Prayers

Last week’s mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, OR., marked the 141st school shooting since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT., 34 months ago, according to NBC News.

We, as high school students, feel particularly connected to these events. Despite the relative security of the Andover campus, when school shootings occur, we feel a distinct sense that it could have been us. We could have been the ones whose lives were cut much too short.

In 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 33,636 gun-related deaths in the United States. 33 percent of those deaths were classified as homicides and 63 percent were classified as suicides. In each year after 2001 until 2013, according to Vox, firearm-related deaths outnumbered deaths from terrorist attacks by approximately a 1,000:1 ratio. The United States’s population makes up about four percent of the world, but United States citizens own 42 percent of the world’s non-military firearms, according to Vox.

It would be naïve and irresponsible to disregard those facts as coincidences or a direct result of a larger “mental health” issue in the U.S., which is often the excuse of choice used in the media when mass shootings occur. The fact is that we have a gun problem in our country that will not solve itself. We often reduce the people killed in these shootings to bodies and death counts. But in doing so, we distance ourselves from the fact that the people killed were siblings, children, parents and friends. These people had real lives that mattered.

Of course, we know that at this point in our lives, we do not have a significant say in gun legislation. But we feel that it is important to share these statistics, because we have the opportunity now to reflect upon our own ideas and beliefs. With the frequency of gun-related deaths in the U.S., we fear becoming desensitized to the threat of gun violence. It’s something that has already begun to happen. Last week, an incident in which an 11-year-old boy in Tennessee fatally shot an 8-year-old girl over an argument about a puppy largely flew under the radar in popular media. We implore the Andover community to open their eyes to Congress’s massive failures in addressing these gun-related issues.

This editorial represents the views of The Phillipian Editorial Board CXXXVIII.

Students and Faculty Meet During ASM to Discuss Healthy Relationships

In a deviation from the standard march to the Cochran Chapel, students and faculty dispersed across campus to meet in smaller groups in place of Wednesday’s All-School Meeting (ASM). Faculty members facilitated discussions on healthy relationships with smaller, more intimate groups of students, as announced at ASM on September 23.

“The main goal… is to just break ground in terms of discussion: making [discussion about sex] not awkward. The very fact that we’re talking about this and that the school is making an effort to get people into classrooms and talk about healthy intimate relationships and what these things entail, I think that removes some of the stigma associated with [these discussions],” said Denise Alfonso, Instructor in Chemistry, who led a dialogue with a group of Juniors.
While the general topic of these conversations centered on healthy relationships, different groups discussed a wide range of issues, from slut-shaming to Andover’s hook-up culture. Discussions also touched upon respect in emotional and physical intimacy, as well as consent. Ground rules to encourage anonymity and sensitivity were established in each group.

Jennifer Elliott ’94, Dean of Students, said that the increased demand for improved sexual education by students led faculty members to think about ways in which to spur conversations around such topics on campus.

“We’re trying to figure out and pilot a number of different initiatives to inform our ‘Empathy and Balance’ curriculum next year. This year feels like a really opportune time to collect information and to try out a couple of different structures and strategies for delivering content,” said Jennifer Elliott, Dean of Students.

The format of Wednesday’s discussions was based on feedback given by student leaders in Be LOVED, a three-day retreat for Seniors interested in learning how to build a community, and Personal and Community Engagement (PACE), as well as Proctors and Prefects. These student leaders requested a forum for sexual health conversations involving same grade and mixed genders, facilitated by faculty. The student body met with peers in their English classes in an effort to create diverse groups within grades.

“When you have a large group, you make sure that everyone gets the same sort of information and the same message… but sometimes it’s a little impersonal, and people might not totally relate. Having small groups provides an environment for them to discuss anything they might have heard in school meetings or outside of that,” said Alfonso.

Max Vale ’18 said that the mixture of boarders and day students within the small groups also allowed the groups to see multiple perspectives.

The event was planned by the Dean of Students Office in conjunction with Isham and Graham House. Faculty received training at meetings and worked with the Community and Multicultural Development (CAMD) Power Players and trainers from Mentors in Violence Prevention to gain context for the discussions.

“I expected it to be something similar to the talk that we have in our dorm… but we also got feedback from the faculty members in our groups, which was different. I really appreciated that because I got a better idea of what the faculty members know and think of the hook-up culture and the [sexual education] on campus,” said Lara Guvelioglu ’16.

Juniors will have the chance to continue the dialogue in the same groups next Wednesday. While feedback is still being gathered, participants have expressed interest in meeting again to further engage in the discussion. Students and faculty alike have praised the intimacy of the discussions.

“You can’t ever hear too many people’s [opinions] on a subject because everyone has something different to say… Everyone says it in a different way. I think it’s important to listen to everyone and their experiences… Not everyone in my English class is close, but it was nice to have a very confident group willing to share their experiences,” said Guvelioglu.

Janice Cheon ’16 Explores Gender and Sexuality in the Baroque Period During Brace Presentation

A selection from Claudio Monteverdi’s opera “’L’incoronazione di Poppea” resonated throughout the School Room in Abbot Hall as Janice Cheon ’16 stood before the audience last Monday afternoon for her Brace Fellow presentation.

Her presentation, entitled, “Gender and Sexuality in Baroque Opera and Modern Performance,” aimed to promote change in society’s heteronormative mindset by encouraging the Andover community to reflect on the Castrati legacy. The Castrati were male singers during the Baroque period who were castrated before they went through puberty to retain their high and unbroken voices.

“Fortunately, in recent years, our society has opened up to more conversations about gender and sexuality, and also we have become more accepting toward the L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. community,” said Cheon during the presentation. “I believe that Baroque Operas that still exist on the shadows of Castrado may help us understand a time when gender and sexuality fluidity was treated as the societal norm.”

While Cheon highlighted the outstanding singing of the Castrati, she also related their success to the “one sex and gender model,” which was a widely accepted explanation of the differences between sexes.

According to Cheon’s research, the “one sex and gender model” was the belief in one continuous spectrum of sex. Adult heterosexual men and women were on opposite ends of the spectrum, and people who freely expressed their genders were in between. The Castrati were located in the middle of the spectrum as adolescent males.

“Since all genders were regarded as matters of degree on the one gender continuum… differences in sex were more quantitative than qualitative,” said Cheon. “The effect of castration [of the Castrati] was to preserve a boy’s charm, his beautiful face and voice,” she continued.

Following the dawn of the 18th century, however, the Enlightenment filled Europe with the notion of humanism, stressing the importance of individual men. Cheon described a new explanation of sex that proved the previous gender and sex model wrong.

“Women and men were now regarded as two polar opposites. Sex as well as gender was fixed as stable, and crossing the divide between adult mankind and adult womankind was unnatural and regarded as sacrilegious,” said Cheon in her presentation.

Eventually, the practice of castration was regarded as barbaric and unacceptable, and Castrati was excluded from European society. Nowadays the bass baritone, countertenor and female singers replace the Castrato performance to continue the Baroque Opera.

“I want to show my belief that modern production of Baroque Opera should strive to combine… original opera with modern vocal technique and some of modern culture as well,” Cheon said.

Toward the end of her presentation, Cheon encouraged members of the Andover community to reflect upon the historical changes of gender and sex perception. Cheon hopes that the instances of modern Castrato performances will help facilitate the ongoing debate upon the transforming standards and roles of sex and gender.

“I am a violinist, a big fan of music and a big fan of opera. I have always enjoyed Baroque and Classical Operas more so than the huge romantic and 20th century operas that opera fans usually enjoy. I also discovered the CD, on my own, of Philippe Jaroussky, and I was blown away by the stunning quality of his voice. He is a French counter tenor, absolutely a gorgeous singer and a fabulous person. This basically sparked my interest,” said Cheon.

Although unsure at first, Cheon said she felt prompted to do more research into opera and Baroque music after discovering this CD. She then contacted both the Brace Center and the music department for some guidance and support with her project.

“Both institutions were open and receptive to this idea. So I think it was a great way for me to investigate more of the style of music that I play and also understand this whole one sex model – I was not even aware of it when I started the research, and I grew from that. I am very happy that I went in this direction,” said Cheon.

ARC Bridges Students and Community Members with Disabilities

As the ball soared into the net, echoing cheers and laughter erupted as ARC participants and volunteers played in the Case Memorial Cage last Tuesday evening.
ARC, a community engagement program, aims to provide a space for community members with mental and physical disabilities to spend time with a student buddy from Andover.

“My favorite part of ARC is the first day…when everyone sees their buddy again for the first time and just seeing the way peoples’ faces light up. You can see how much [this program] affects people,” said Maddie Comer ’16, a student coordinator of ARC.

ARC is not an acronym. The word “ARC” represents the bridging relationships between community members and students that are developed through spending time at this program together.

“From the office standpoint, behind the scenes and organizing to get this program ready is so great. Every week we have buddies calling the office saying that they’re so excited to show up. I think the dedication from both the students and the buddies from the community that participate is just amazing…It’s a great way to spend your Tuesday night and great to see the relationships evolve,” said Julia Howard, a faculty advisor for the program.

In ARC, community members can be found playing volleyball, dancing to music playing on the radio, walking around the track or simply talking to their student buddies.

The program is led by Howard, Fellow in the Office of Community Engagement, Monique Cueto-Potts, Director of Community Engagement and student coordinators Maddie Comer ’16, Connor Haugh ’17 and Laura Bilal ’17. As one of the longest running community engagement programs at Andover, ARC allows students to step out of their comfort zone, encouraging them to work with and get to know a community member with a disability.

“I just wanted to try something new and I [told myself] ‘get out of your comfort zone.’ [ARC] did push me, I’m not going to lie, the first few weeks were tough…You get an appreciation for everything we have. Anything makes them happy…they light up when they see you. That was something that made me keep coming back and made me want to do it again and become more involved,” said Bilal.

Originally established as a children’s program, ARC has evolved into a program based on adults with mental disabilities.

Darian Bhathena ’16, a student participant in ARC, said, “I think what’s most special about [ARC] is how happy [my buddy and I] make each other. [My buddy] always gets really happy when she turns around and sees me standing there. It’s a real thrill to see her every week because she makes everything a little bit brighter.”

With ARC community members ranging from those who are unable to speak and wheelchair bound, to those who are fully functional and employed, Andover students are paired with their buddies according to experience and comfortability in working with these conditions.

“I think it’s important to understand that you’re not only doing [ARC] for yourself, [your buddies] rely on you. It is definitely humbling in the sense that you’re helping them, but they’re also helping you understand and be compassionate and just take a step back from Andover and realize we are a small portion of this world. There is a big, broader community out there,” said Bilal.

Laura Bilal ’17 is a Sports Associate, and Connor Haugh ’17 is a Business Associate for The Phillipian, Vol. CXXXVIII.

Leah Adelman ’17 Bikes Across America to Empower Girls Around the World

After dipping her bicycle wheel into the Atlantic Ocean in Charleston, S.C., as a symbolic start to her journey to come, Leah Adelman ’17 set off with ten other teenage girls to bike across the country. A few minutes into the trip, and a few miles from from Charleston’s Folly Beach, she looked back and realized that the next time she would see the ocean would be once she arrived in San Diego, CA, 2,740 miles away.

The six week trip across nine different states was organized by Girl Up, a United Nations campaign for supporting the development and empowerment of adolescent girls in developing countries, by focusing on girls’ education, health, safety and documentation.

During the ride, Adelman biked for nine to 12 hours each day and slept in school gyms and on church floors, stopping occasionally at motels and campsites.
While biking across the country, Adelman spent much of her time reflecting on her life and appreciating the many privileges she has that many girls in other countries or communities do not.

“I was thinking about how I was doing this for Girl Up, about those girls and what their life experiences would be like, and about how lucky I am and how fortunate I am to go to school,” said Adelman.

Adelman first discovered her love for cycling during her freshman year at Andover. As part of the Andover Cycling team, she rides 15-30 miles during each practice in the spring. Adelman said she often feels transported from campus as she rides.

“[Biking] really gives me a sense of freedom and independence and I feel powerful and I feel strong. I love to race and I also love the accomplishment that comes with it. I love being outside and experiencing nature and my surroundings that are in a way very different from being in a car,” said Adelman.

She remarked how the routes the cycling team takes – racing down winding roads and passing small farm houses on the sides – remind her of Europe.

“It is really special to be able to step – or rather, ride – outside of the Andover Bubble each afternoon of the spring as a reminder that there is so much more to this world than homework and grades,” said Adelman.

When Adelman was introduced to Girl Up for the first time last year by Sydney Baumgardt ’16, she immediately felt prompted to get involved by fundraising and raising awareness for promoting the development and empowerment of girls around the world.

Now, Adelman hopes to introduce a Girl Up club on campus along with Baumgardt and Carmen Bango ’16. The club will focus on raising awareness for Girl Up and will run fundraisers for the organization.

“I think [this club] is unique because we are looking at women’s and girl’s issues pertaining to other countries. That is what Girl Up focuses on. I think that is kind of a new thing to have on campus because there are a lot of feminist discussions but looking at it from a global perspective is the [main] idea,” said Adelman.

Through this event, Adelman raised a total of $5,756 to donate to Girl Up. Adelman will continue to stay involved with the organization by attending summits and by sharing ideas with teenagers around the country who are also committed to empowering girls around the globe.

“It was really great to use this passion I found at Andover and use it for good. It was meaningful for me to prove that adolescent girls can be strong,” said Adelman.

She added, “Accomplishing this was proving to myself and everyone that a 16-year-old is capable of powering herself through the country. Sometimes [society] looks at adolescent girls as being weak or being unable to do things and to say that I biked all the way across America, it goes right along with empowering girls in other countries and showing them that they are strong.”