Extinguishing Tradition Extinguishing Tradition

One week ago at nightfall, students congregated on the steps of Sam Phillips Hall in celebration of a new year at Andover. The excitement was palpable as shy Juniors and anxious Seniors alike followed the Blue Key Heads about the Great Lawn and down the vista. Even the most jaded of Andover students couldn’t help but cheer for their cluster with the rabid pride of the moment. But Andover’s current orientation pep rally is but a shadow of what it once was. Four years ago, the Dean of Students Office brought an end to a long-lived and much-loved tradition – the Burning of the A. With the graduation of the class of 2005, for the first time in memory, there are no students at PA who have experienced first-hand the excitement of this ceremony. We write this week to keep the fire burning—so to speak—for this tradition, that it will not only stay alive in our memories, but also come alight once more for future classes at Andover. Just as last Friday’s night time jaunt, the Burning of the A ceremony began with the Blue Keys and other Seniors rousing students from their dorms after sign-in. But rather than an ambiguous call to run about aimlessly (not too fast, someone might trip), the new students of past years were called to duty, told that dreaded Exies had invaded our campus and had to be stopped. Spurred on by the new-found zeal of school pride, new students joined with old in a purposeful charge to the Pine Knoll green, where Seniors would stride in victoriously with a captive Exie (or so it seemed) on their shoulders. It later became clear that the Exie business had been a ruse, but before disappointment could set in, Seniors would set fire to an enormous wooden A on the Pine Knoll stage. Confused, out of breath, and thrilled all at once, students were imbued with genuine camaraderie as the A burned down slowly into the night. As the Burning of the A fades from our collective memory, it’s hard to understand why the school would do away with a beloved tradition. In 2002, the Dean of Students office arbitrarily decided to ban the ceremony. Dean of Students Marlys Edwards told The Phillipian that the primary concern was that it evoked images of the Ku Klux Klan burning crosses in the South. The problem is that these were PA students, not Klansmen, and the A was a symbol of unity and pride, not a tool of bigotry. Superficial similarities between an avowed tradition and cross-burning are not at all sufficient to justify the ending of this ceremony. The time has come to rekindle the flames for future students. We in the class of 2006 will not be around for such a ceremony, but there is no reason why the A cannot burn again at the start of the next school year. Student Council Representative Yoni Gruskin ’07 has begun a petition to restore this tradition, and already over half the student body has added their support. We encourage every student to add their names to the petition, that we can send a forceful and unanimous message that this tradition be restored.