A Tradition Worth Letting Go

It is in the best interests of future Blue Key Heads and the school community who embraces them that the old cluster quota has been eradicated. This may be news to some students, but the Blue Key Head system is changing. There will no longer be a cluster quota requirement for next year’s selection. For many years, the Blue Key Heads consisted of one boy and one girl from each of the five clusters. It has always been the tradition here at Andover. However, there is going to be a twist to this upheld tradition. The new Blue Key Heads will no longer represent their specific cluster, instead standing together as one organization to embody schoolwide spirit. There were some benefits to having Blue Key Heads divided by cluster, but the negative effects were greater. Usually, we assume candidates for the Blue Key Head positions want the position badly enough to run through the dining halls screaming their heads off. Those students who actually get the positions typically deserve it. However, there are exceptions to the rule. Since it was mandatory for each cluster to have a boy and a girl to represent it under the old system of Blue Key Head selection, there were students who joined clusters to have greater advantages of getting the positions. One way for a student to cheat the system was to move into a cluster where there were not many prospects for the Blue Key Head positions. Thus, a “clever” student would become a member of a cluster that he or she did not truly support only because it gave him or her better chances of becoming a Blue Key Head. This manipulation of the system defeats the whole purpose of a Blue Key Head job description. A perfect example of this is the Abbot cluster, because there are not many rising Seniors who live there. It is difficult to choose a Blue Key Head from a cluster like Abbot if there are not many choices in the first place. In an interview with Cynthia Efinger, Director of Student Activities, she gave more reasons for modifying the cluster quota. She explained that there was a big problem with filling in the cluster quota because there would be “…many good candidates in only one cluster like Flagstaff and barely any candidates in another cluster like Abbot. Most of the good candidates would be turned down while we would have to ask students to do the job even when they did not apply.” For example, Ekow Essel was a great Blue Key Head last year, but he was not going to do it at first. However, there were hardly any Abbot candidates, so he was asked and persuaded to try out for the position. Although he turned out to be spirited and charming, it is better to have a student who tried out for the position on his or her own initiative. The cluster deans and presidents, members of Student Council and the current Blue Key Heads support this decision to make Blue Key Head positions schoolwide. At first, not all of the Blue Key Heads stood by the change because they wanted to protect their territory. It was hard for them to let go of such an old tradition, but in the end, they all agreed. Ms. Efinger also told me about a piece of Andover history that some might not know about. She said that in the 1970’s, there was no cluster government or anyone to lead the clusters, but there was still a Blue Key Society comprised of students chosen to lead each cluster. These heads had powerful positions, and essentially governed their clusters. Today, Blue Key Heads are not as important in their respective clusters because of strong cluster councils. They only deal with student activities now, so they should not be limited to representing only clusters. This change is supposed to symbolize each Blue Key Head working for the school community, not just a cluster. What is going to happen to holding the cluster flags during orientation? Future Blue Key Heads will have to hold the cluster flag even if they are not in that cluster. It is about having and showing schoolwide spirit. Everyone knows that during orientation for new students, the Blue Keys Heads all wait on the street corner wearing tie-dyed shirts with those famous signs that read “Honk if you love Andover!” As Ms. Efinger put it, “Those tie-dye shirts mean a rainbow, that all the cluster colors are mixed together because the Blue Keys cheer for the whole school during orientation.” The destruction of the cluster quota is good because Blue Key Heads should cheer for the entire school all year-round, not just on the Main Street corner in September.