Tradition of Activism Rooted in Rift Between Administration and Students

Historically, PA students have been obligated to abide by the rules stipulated in The Blue Book, but on several occasions, vigorous petitioning and occasional protest has led the school to change its policies. Some of the students’ objections, like the rebellion against the school’s mandate of a coat, tie, and short hair during the 1960’s, resulted from outdated rules. Other protests have fought the elimination of old policies, including last year’s attempt by Yoni Gruskin ’07 to restore the “Burning of the A” to the fall pep rally. The school eventually decided to continue the ban on the tradition, despite Gruskin’s student petition with over 800 signatures supporting the “Burning of the A.” The tone of the student petition, however, was relatively subdued, and the students involved later accepted the administration’s decision. However, some student movements in PA’s history have broken rules, and even laws, to prove a point. During the unrest of the late 1960’s and early 70’s, Phillips Academy maintained a Student-Faculty Cooperative with weekly meetings to address student issues. The National Association of Independent Schools also commissioned “An Inquiry into Student Unrest in Independent Secondary Schools,” written by former Dean of Faculty Alan R. Blackmer. Mr. Blackmer’s surveys found that students were upset with the lack of student input into school decisions, while a growing drug problem widened the rift between the student body and adults on campus. A Phillipian survey then showed that 48 percent of students claimed to have smoked marijuana. In 1971 and 1972, Andover experienced a rash of vandalism, mostly at the Cut-Checking office, which kept a record of student attendance, in George Washington Hall. There were periodic break-ins to protest punishment for overcutting, including one raid when students stole the attendance records of all but 90 students in the school. The thieves then wrote an anonymous letter to the Phillipian, stating, “In any event, change must, and will occur. We will not wait much longer…” However, more humorous pranks were popular as well. Later in 1972, students stole all the utensils from Commons and put them on the roof of the building, which forced the entire school to eat without any cutlery. Later in the winter, students emptied the library card catalogs, scattering them across the building. Student pranksters reached a new low that winter, however, when they attempted once again to break into the cut-checking office. An off-duty policeman who was hired to secure the building fired a warning shot over the head of a student, which according to one alumnus, “awakened everyone from their fatalistic lethargy of the past weeks.” The cut system was finally abolished in 1972, and attendance was only measured by an unsatisfactory behavior mark on a student’s transcript. More serious threats have also been reported on the Andover campus in the past. In 1971, several Lowers found a crude bomb outside the bell tower, ostensibly placed by the same students angry at the school’s policy on cutting classes. However, in the 1970’s, Andover students also set out to make peaceful protests to rules on campus. In 1969, 200 students rallied on the steps of Samuel Phillips Hall to protest the dismissal of a student and a DC process without student input. Then Dean of Students John Richards decided to implement weekly meetings with students who had questions about the results of disciplinary committees. Andover eventually changed their policy to increase the student voice in the disci-plinary system. During this period, students also defeated various formalities enforced by the administration, including mandatory chapel and required breakfast for Lowers. Other students took issue with the rule against Seniors smoking and drinking, since they were le-gally allowed. In 1969, 235 Seniors signed a petition urging the school to re-examine its policy on smoking. For a period, PA allowed students of legal age to drink at the Andover Inn, and it permitted 18-year olds to smoke pipes. Another topic of campus unrest occurred after the integration between Phillips and Abbot Academies. In 1973, 600 students boycotted a day of class to protest limitations that the school had placed on parietals.