Student Council Discusses Pace of Life with Faculty

Presenting to the School Congress a student perspective on the pace of life issue, Student Council President Kanyi Maqubela ’03, the five Cluster Presidents, Council President-elect Allegra Asplundh-Smith ’04, Vice President-elect Samuel Levenback ’04, and a handful of other student government leaders attended a faculty meeting on Tuesday. The Council put forth a broad summary of the student body’s opinion, presenting both sides of the argument on pertinent issues such as Saturday classes, faculty-student interaction, and workload, with particular emphasis on the importance of unstructured time. In addition to answering questions posed by faculty, students also articulated their own thoughts on these topics. Tuesday’s presentation opened with the issue of Saturday classes. Upper Representative Jenny Wong ’04 argued that Saturday classes should remain as they are now, stating that while they do “violate the sanctity of Friday night,” decreasing their frequency would merely confuse the structure of the school year. Fellow Upper Representative Will Scharf ’04, the self-proclaimed “student government radical,” and urged instead for the complete abolition of Saturday classes, deeming them “counterproductive.” An Orthodox Jew, Scharf has never attended Saturday classes–a fact that he claimed gave him some measure of objectivity. “Saturday classes don’t serve a point,” he said, arguing that many students end up having tests or quizzes on Saturday that restrict their Friday night “down time.” The issue of Saturday classes is also significant for day students, who constitute more than a quarter of the student body. Because most day students do not have cars, they must rely on their parents to drive them to class on Saturday mornings, which is often difficult for parents who work on the weekend. Fueling the fire against Saturday classes, Day Student Representative Joe Musumeci ’03 had before the Congress sent out a two-question poll to day students via e-mail, the results of which he presented on Tuesday. Fifty-four students were opposed to moving activities that are now scheduled for during the week to Saturdays, and three were in favor. When asked if they were in favor of Saturday classes, 48 students responded negatively, and only two were in favor. The Council then turned to the question of faculty-student interaction. Pine Knoll Cluster President Jeff Chung ’03 stated that the general consensus among students is that there should be no increase in required intercommunication. He argued that as an independent preparatory school, Andover should promote independence among its students, who should be able to take their own initiative in seeking relationships with faculty members. According to Chung, forced student-teacher interaction would only strain relations. Chung further argued that the school should opt for quality and depth over compulsory interaction, stating that there is already much communication between faculty and students in the form of extracurricular activities such as athletics, theater, or music, in addition to encounters in the dormitory such as face-to-face sign and parietal requests. He concluded that an increase in required events would lead to frustration and displeasure among the student body. Abbot Cluster President Etzerson Philitas ’03 added that while increased student-faculty interaction would not be negative, imposing them upon students would defeat the purpose of these relationships. Flagstaff Cluster President Tom Dimopoulos ’03 then spoke for the addition of more optional weekend activities. He stated that the school should better organize Friday and Saturday student activities. Dimopoulos noted that students often characterize Fridays as a “slow day when nothing happens” and suggested an increase in bus trips to the Loop, Lawrence Cinemas, or even to Boston. He added that such activities should remain optional to prevent a further drain on the student body and preserve weekend leisure time. Philitas, however, cautioned that just because an activity is unstructured does not mean it is unproductive, citing such examples as the Stearns Dormitory’s trips to the Boston Food Bank. West Quad North Senior Representative Zachary Cafritz ’03 then spoke about the heavy weekly workload that Andover students have, noting this leads to a lack of sleep. He cited statistics that showed American teenagers average 6.5 hours of sleep a night, much less than the 9 hours 15 minutes deemed ideal by doctors. Cafritz explained that many school districts have moved the start of classes to 8:30am, resulting in higher grades and test scores, better attendance, and a decrease in delinquency. He argued that with more sleep, Andover students would be able to perform better inside and outside the classroom. Upper Representative Fan Wang ’04 then presented a “philosophical viewpoint” on the subject, presenting the metaphor of one who chooses to be a soldier, and so cannot complain about being injured. “Pace of life is a personal decision,” he said. “[Pace of life is] not something the school can solve, but rather a social issue.” Maqubela then invited faculty members to put forth questions, individual perspectives, and ideas to which members of the Student Council responded. In closing, Maqubela stated that the pace of life is a problem that cannot be physically quantified, noting that the student body is obviously not unified on this issue, but all agree on the value of unstructured time. Finally, Instructor in History and Social Sciences Tony Rotundo thanked Maqubela for his excellent leadership throughout the year, upon which the President received a standing ovation from the faculty and Council members. Head of School Barbara Chase ended the meeting by thanking all those who had taken part, stating, “We will keep puzzling our way through this.”