Competing Freedoms

At Exeter, students in shirts and ties will dutifully report to class tomorrow for their usual extended work week— Monday through Saturday. Their lives are more regulated, their freedom is more limited and their creativity more often stifled. But with a shiny new student center, a one billion dollar endowment and a commendable, new, (effectively) needs-blind admissions process, Exeter’s facilities and resources are more appealing than ever. In the race to catch up with Exeter, we cannot allow Andover’s most important distinctions —freedom and trust— to fall by the wayside or go unappreciated. Exonians may enjoy the fruits of their most recent capital campaign, but these things are immaterial in the grand scheme. The beauty of Andover’s occasional Saturday class schedule is that it breaks up the monotonous workweek by spreading class out, but permanent Saturday classes only keep students from ever relaxing. Perhaps Exeter parents are reassured to know that their students spend more time focused on class than we do. But whether or not Exeter students are more focused on their classes, this freedom gives us time to relax and flex our creativity instead of burning out. At Andover, student organizations enjoy a wide range of freedoms that are not enjoyed at Exeter. Take The Exonian, Exeter’s student newspaper, for instance. On Andover/Exeter weekend, members of The Phillipian were meeting with members of The Exonian in the newspaper office of their much-lauded student center, when they were interrupted by a PEA security officer. The guard asked the Andover students to leave, insisting that the building was “locked,” (which could not have been true, apparently). Outside of the building the Phillipians were told that they could not get in because there were no faculty members present. If students cannot work in their student center without an adult, then the huge meeting rooms and new furniture go unused. More importantly, it reflects a distrust of Exeter students. Fortunately for The Phillipian, we are allowed to operate without faculty at all times. That The Phillipian is furthermore completely uncensored, whereas The Exonian is subject to prior review, speaks volumes to the level of trust that PA allows its students. This trust is what allows student organizations to single-handedly organize events, run interscholastic conferences, put on plays and orchestrate school trips. It is what allows us to use the internet at all hours, sign-out without supervision, wear what we wish, take personal time, use the fatigue room and enjoy an open campus. Of course, we could abuse this trust. Student publications could print libelous articles, students could fake signatures on the sign-out sheets or worse, they could skip town for a few days. But whether or not this trust becomes a liability to the school, Phillips should never abandon it. If we really envied our rival school, we could just do everything like Exeter. PA could give up its potential liabilities, like its uncensored student paper or trust-based sign-out system. But freedom and trust are things that have made this community special for a long time now. We hope that we may learn from these things, so that when we go out into the world we may make a positive difference on our own initiative. Phillips should never take away the trust and freedom it allows its students.