Wrong Place, Wrong Time

Several weeks ago, the Trustees of Phillips Academy decided to go through with the construction of another ice rink. With a projected cost of $5 million, the “second ice sheet” is planned and ready to go, awaiting only the allocation of funds to begin appearing in the Harrison Rink building. Upon learning of these facts, I felt overwhelmed by a state of bewilderment. At first I thought it was simply a rumor. However, upon learning that, indeed, the project is going to take place, I immediately began to piece together why exactly a school plagued with large cuts in academic, athletic, and outreach programs should lean towards the construction of a structure which in no way will ameliorate any campus problems (save the Sumner Smith eye-sore). Sure, the rink might even pay for itself–but certainly not in the near future. Could not the money being used for this project be spent better elsewhere? What type of message does this send to students and alumni, who are eager for the school to be as great an academic institution as it can possibly be? Why exactly does the school need a new rink? These are questions that have gone unanswered. As students, we have a right to know the reasoning behind such a large expenditure, especially at such a time when programs such as the John’s Island, South Carolina, community service trip and the term abroad programs are facing cancellation. I recognize the need for the Academy to build another rink; however, at such a time, it seems outrageous. At a moment when the school is doing well financially, there would be absolutely nothing wrong with investing in facilities, academic or athletic. However, this is not the case. Currently, the money that will be acquired to build the rink would be much better spent enriching the academic and off-campus programs that have been cut from the Academy’s budget. I do not doubt the importance of athletics at Phillips Academy; I am simply maintaining that, at this instant, those acting on the behalf of the Academy ought to recognize where its priorities should lie. And, what about the several thousand students who apply to PA each year interested in coming to Andover for its academic excellence? For a school that sets so much emphasis on maintaining a healthy image, it seems counter-intuitive that it should cut certain academic programs and, almost immediately thereafter, begin building a third hockey rink. The project sends a horrible message to Academy benefactors and potential applicants alike. These are issues which many in the PA community want the administration-and perhaps even the Board of Trustees-to address itself. Although I doubt it, perhaps there is some benefit that is not readily obvious. However, that we should be so left in the dark and kept out of discussion of the matter seems unreasonable. We, the students, are the ones who have to deal with the cuts in programs. Perhaps what we think of the matter is of at least some importance. Every student should think to himself or herself why exactly he or she came to this Academy. Was it to play hockey? In a vast majority of cases, the answer to this question would be no. The reason that most people chose this school is its unparalleled academic programs. When the endowment increases and the Academy stops losing money, a rink might make a fine addition the school; however, at present, the money would be better spent elsewhere or not at all.