Cluster Meetings Address Issue of Pace of Life at PA

Urging students to express their opinions on the use of weekends and the possibility of reconfiguring the weekend schedule, the Cluster Presidents discussed Pace of Life issues during their respective cluster meetings on Wednesday. The utilization of weekends is the latest issue on the Pace of Life Committee’s agenda. The Committee recently designed a new academic schedule for the Phillips Academy student body to be implemented this coming fall. The schedule was approved by the faculty this fall, but the Committee has continued to examine the daily lives of students and faculty members within the community in the hopes of solving the Pace of Life problem. Many students have expressed disapproval of an alleged lack of student participation in the Committee’s decision-making process. This discontent amongst students was a primary reason behind the Committee’s decision to seek students’ input during Cluster meetings. The Cluster Presidents recommended that students use dorm meetings to host Pace of Life discussions and to speak with their respective Cluster Presidents, Cluster Deans, and House Counselors. The Cluster Presidents used their platform during the cluster assemblies to make a rallying cry for student activism, while bringing up other current issues on Student Council including upcoming elections for Council President. Many students repsonded, either verbalizing their opinions during an open forum in the meeting or after the meeting with friends, as the new schedule will undoubtedly have a significant effect on the lives of both students and faculty if a change to weekends is made. Although the debate over the recently passed schedule did not involve widespread student participation, Chair of the Pace of Life Committee Dr. Max Alovisetti remarked, “It has always been our intention to engage students in our discussion of Pace of Life.” He continued, “As a community, we need to hear each other’s views so that we can approach some consensus as to what structure and activities are vital for the safety, emotional well-being, and educational mission of our school.” The problem of how to better utilize the weekends arose after some faculty members expressed their desire to have more student-faculty contact during the weekends, as Phillips Academy is a seven-day boarding school. Currently, there are no required activities on the weekends, a time when many students complete homework assignments, sleep late, and attend Student Activities-sponsored events. According to Dr. Alovisetti, the Pace of Life Committee strives to find out what “our unique responsibilities and opportunities [are] during weekends,” from the proposed student discussions. He continued, “We want to look at the extent to which we should structure our program so that we can be assured of some reasonable amount of student/faculty contact on weekends.” The Committee is considering a healthy balance of required and leisure activities, both on the weekends and during the week. Dr. Alovisetti stated, “We don’t want students, particularly 9th and 10th graders, to be cast adrift, but we also want the community to have sufficient time for rest and recuperation.” The Committee is also currently looking at the 3-8 pm time block on the weekdays, and is considering ending all required activities by dinner time. This would create a period of leisure time before the commencement of study hours at 8 pm. Certain activities, including musical rehearsals and some club meetings which now occupy this time block, will most likely be moved to the weekends. Students have expressed mixed reactions towards the Pace of Life Committee’s efforts. The majority of students report that they dislike the new schedule because they feel that it will only exacerbate the Pace of Life problem, rather than help it. Colette Harris ’05 stated, “When you come to Andover, you know that it isn’t going to be easy.” Students have also voiced some worries about the possibility of having All-School Meetings or rehearsals on the weekends, especially if such a commitment was limited in time and occurred in the morning, a time most students reserve for sleeping in. Their main concern is that these required activities would not allow the boarding students who go home to leave campus and would require day student parents to drive their children to campus on the weekends. The Pace of Life became an issue at Phillips Academy in 2001 after an inspection report from the New England Prep School Association deemed Andover’s Pace of Life as being potentially hazardous to Andover students. The Committee is headed by Dr. Alovisetti, and it is composed of two students (Student Council President Kanyi Maqubela ’03 and Student Council Vice President Kate Takvorian ’03) and twelve faculty members who work in various parts of the school.