Four Female Presidents Elected Throughout PA History, This Year Two Female Candidates Remain

Ever since Phillips Academy and Abbot Academy merged in 1973, there have been only four female Student Body Presidents. Even so, two female candidates moved past the second round of elections last Tuesday along with four male candidates. At one point, faculty members and administration suggested an intervention by requiring both a female and male president each year. This suggestion was met with much opposition because students felt that adults forcing them to vote for a male and female president might allow for an under-qualified leader. Instructor in History and Social Science and Co-Director of the Brace Center for Gender Studies Kathleen Dalton said, “My feeling is it isn’t a problem for the adults to solve. [The students] need to look at themselves and find what it is about themselves that makes them unable to do [support a female candidate].” The cause of the situation is disputed. Until the early 1990’s there was an inequity in percentage of female students attending Andover compared to males. According to A Portrait of a School: Coeducation at Andover by Kathleen Dalton, around 60% of the student body during the 1980’s was comprised of males. Many students have said that more recently, a driving force for electing more male presidents is that they are more outgoing and funnier during their speeches at All-School Meetings. Lydia Dallett ’08, currently in the running for president said, “So much of the election process comes down to who has the best, funniest speech, and boys seem [to be] better at this.” Allegra Asplundh-Smith ’04, the most recent female student body president, said, “Women are less likely to take a shot at something if they haven’t thought it through. So my advice to all the candidates is not to take themselves or the process too seriously.” Dalton said that female candidates in the past were harassed, and male students would make threatening phone calls persuading the female students not to run. Blaine Johnson ’08, currently one of the six candidates remaining in the presidential election, said, “I’ve had people come right up to me and say that they won’t vote for me because [I’m not male].” Many students say that they do not vote based on gender, but rather based on qualifications. Matt Silva ’07 said, “I’m not more or less inclined to vote for anyone because of their gender. The race should come down to who is the most qualified…Girls should not get votes just because they are girls. I don’t think girls should use a pity or guilt technique.” Alex Moss ’09, who had similar sentiments, said, “I would not vote for a girl president that runs for president for the sake of being a girl president. Besides that, a girl candidate with a solid platform is just as worthy of a nomination as anyone else.” Johnson views herself as one of the six remaining candidates rather than one of the two remaining female candidates. She does acknowledge that it may be possible that she is gaining votes because she is female, but she believes it is more probable that she is loosing more votes than gaining them because of her gender. Asplundh-Smith ’04 said, “I sensed some people supporting me simply because of my gender, and on the other hand, I knew kids who didn’t want to vote for me because they saw my gender as giving me an unfair advantage. I think in the end, [being female] helped.” Dallet is more consciously running as a female candidate and said, “At least part of the reason why I am running for student president is to encourage more girls, in future years, to take that chance.” The lack of female student leadership is not unique to Andover. At Phillips Exeter Academy, which became a coeducational institution in 1971, there has been one female Student Council President, which was during the 1991 to 1992 school year. Phillips Exeter Academy School Archivist, Edouard L. Desrochers said, “My recollection is that it isn’t so much that females have not won, I don’t think that they have run for those offices very much.” Milton Academy, which has been coeducational since its founding in 1798, has a male and female position equivalent to Andover’s School President. Peter Weis, Archivist for the Northfield Mount Hermon School, estimated that the number of female presidents of the Student Congress at NMH has been equal, if not slightly greater, than the number of male presidents in the past ten years. The Phillips Academy female student body president Hadley Soutter ’82, served during the 1981 to 1982 academic school year. Dalton said, “Students were especially critical of a female president.”