Lights Out

Aside from housing process induced trauma, one of the main topics of freshman conversation is the upside of lower year. I believe I speak for the current freshman class as a whole when I say I look forward to the freedoms I will soon experience as a lower. Unfortunately, I do not know how well I will handle those freedoms. This school assumes that over summer break of freshman year, the entire freshman class suddenly matures to the point where they can regulate their sleeping habits and be responsible for their work without house counselors constantly breathing down their necks. Now, I do not know if the administration knows something about this summer that I don’t, but from what I have seen and heard from upperclassmen, no such maturation occurs. The problem with this situation is freshman year: freshman year does not adequately prepare people for the radical change in lifestyle they will experience in an upperclassmen dorm. Freshman should be introduced to the school and greater individual responsibility with fewer restrictions so that they can better adapt to the intensity of life at PA. I’m not suggesting an utter lack of rules; I’m just suggesting that the current rules are relaxed a little bit. 11:00 lights out should be a guideline, not an absolute rule. Freshman should be encouraged to sleep before 11:00, but forcing students to turn their lights off doesn’t make them go to sleep. Instead, it often creates a difficult work environment, with the student studying in poor lighting conditions and being forced to hurry their work. There is always the argument that students should learn to do their work before 11 PM. It is true that this would prevent the problem entirely, but obviously, the current system is failing to teach people this. I personally think of the lights out policy as more of an annoyance than a reason to get my work done before 11. Many people simply sleep less because of the lights out policy. The gifted minority who is capable of avoiding dorm distractions and going to sleep before 11 usually has that kind of self-discipline when they arrive at the school, and the rest of us do not suddenly acquire this diligence. If freshman fail to successfully adapt, they should suffer minor punitive measures, including instatement of the lights out system. More importantly than this, however, should be counseling regarding academic responsibility. There are many options for academic counseling on campus, but I have not seen that they play a large enough role in the lives of freshman. A new system could allow freshman to adjust to the freedom of boarding school and the intensity of rigorous academics in their own way, instead of forcing them to adjust to the Academy’s blanket policies. In the end, the freshmen that are subjected to the current rules without adjusting are likely to suffer lower year. They will not have learned self-discipline from the current restrictions: on the contrary, they will harbor a deep dislike for lights out and the rules in general. This is setting students up for a situation where they will be all too eager about the freedoms of lower year, and will advantage of those freedoms in ways that will ultimately be dtrimental to their acadmic performance. Even if the adults on campus refuse to loosen freshman rules for all three terms of freshman year, they absolutely must do so for spring term. Some house counselors have talked about relaxing the rules spring term, but their collective voice has not been adequate support. There needs to be some sort of official ammendment so that moving to an upperclassmen dorm doesn’t feel like coming to boarding school for the first time. This current rule discrepancy causes lowers to misuse the autonomy of their new living conditions. To remedy this, the focus of freshman year should be on learning how to be responsible with the freedom that boarding school offers rather than restricting or eliminating it for the freshman year. Thus future classes will learn early on the self-discipline that makes a truly successful Phillips Academy boarding student.