Attention, Please

Phillips Academy prides itself on its status as an institution of higher learning –one where its students may strive to achieve their goals. And Phillips does allow students an excellent education inside the classroom–nearly all our teachers have Master’s Degrees in their respective disciplines, and some have doctorates. But, outside of the classroom, Andover has not taken full advantage of its myriad student clubs. Presently, administrators and faculty are tackling problems like the pace of life, student-faculty interaction, discipline, and the quality and censoring of the student-run media. If more attention were paid and care given to student extracurricular organizations and the students who devote their time to them, the administration could improve all four of the current issues on the table, as well as critically help the student in his academic endeavors. The heart of the student organization problem lies in the lack of compensation for faculty advisors. As any student in a club can tell you, it is very difficult not only to find a faculty advisor, but to find one willing to put in the requisite effort. Why does this happen? It happens because the administration and the Dean’s Council show little or no gratitude towards faculty members who put in their valuable time and effort into organizations and publications about which the school does care. For example, Instructor in Math Nathaniel Smith spends significant time with The Phillipian staff each Monday to go over the previous week’s issue. Does he do it for his own amusement? No. Mr. Smith and the few other truly dedicated faculty advisors spend their time with their respective organizations to help students learn and actually achieve that so-called “higher” level of education. With maybe a little bit of extra funding or a course reduction given to those faculty advisors, the administration would not only improve the quality of our publications, organizations and clubs, but truly give our students the chance to interact and learn from our excellent faculty. As far as support for student leaders is concerned, those who achieve higher levels of learning and commitment within the academic curricula, such as in the areas of theater and community service, receive special benefits for their hard work. The administration and the Athletic Department allow students who participate in two separate Community Service projects the opportunity to take Community Service Basics as a sport – one that is less demanding than even normal Basics. Often those projects do not meet daily, such as ARC, so those projects turn out to represent small time commitments, especially when compared to extracurricular organizations like The Phillipian, WPAA, Pot Pourri, Oxfam, or Model United Nations. Editors-in-Chief and club heads spend hours every week working for organizations that the administration loves to see at the Academy, yet the deans and the administration do not help the students facilitate this. For example, if The Phillipian staff simply could not handle the stress and work involved with putting out an issue every week and had to close the paper, the Trustees, thousands of alumni, the faculty, the students and the administration would be devastated. Yet, despite the fact that the administration and faculty, for the most part, seem to notice publications only when mistakes are made, the school would sorely miss many of its student organizations. Andover takes its students’ time and effort in these clubs for granted. There are many ways to take full advantage of the opportunity that these publications and clubs present and recognize their participants and leaders for the time and effort they contribute. First, a simple athletic reduction, similar to that of the Community Service and Theater departments, but more generous–because the time commitment for the clubs in question is far greater–would greatly relieve the stress of the students involved, as well as leave more time for academic work. Another possible remedy would be allowing students who write for publications regularly to be exempt from one term of Senior English, essentially receiving credit for taking a Journalism elective. This is not that far fetched of an idea; Theater 520 is just that–a theatrical course in which participants receive credit for putting on a play. Students would thus have more time to pursue their interests not only outside the curriculum, but also in the classroom. Also, with more faculty involvement and participation, the school would not have to look to ideas such as scheduled weekend activities in order to bring students and faculty together. With faculty more present in the operation process of student clubs and activities, problems like last year’s infamous WPAA obscenity scandal would not occur in the future. Overall, if the administration placed more of an interest in the quality of the school’s generally prestigious and beloved publications and clubs, the quality would improve and the students and faculty involved would be relieved of a lot of stress. These two parties would come together, both as a learning experience, but also to prevent problems with accountability. These changes will not occur until Phillips Academy learns to appreciate its student clubs and publications and not take them for granted. Unfortunately, the administration often sees these students’ time commitments as “staying out late” and thus mistake the forest for the trees of extracurricular involvement.