With Outgoing BKH’s Surrendering Their Skirts, Not Their Spirit, Incoming Ten Take Positions Independent of Cluster

Impersonating jaguars, donning blue makeup, serenading students — all in Uncommons, before a dining public — just a day in the life for wannabe Blue Key Heads. Ten students’ efforts were rewarded on Tuesday night, when Uppers Eliza Dewey, Nadine Khan, Jill Kozloff, Mike McDonagh, Kyle Rogers, Thor Shannon, Regina Shepherd, Emerson Stoldt, Gustavo Tavares and Deidra Willis were all named Blue Key Heads. “It feels kind of like a dream,” said Stoldt, who ran around campus screaming after finding out about his new position. “I don’t think I started my homework until 11:30 [p.m.] – I was too excited!” Kozloff said she started sobbing when she heard that she was a new Blue Key Head. Khan said waiting to find the results was “absolutely nerve-wracking.” For her audition, she acted like a jaguar and serenaded Travis Wright ’08, which she said was “really fun.” The 10 were selected under a new process this year: instead of choosing the best male and female applicants from each cluster, the current Blue Key Heads and Cindy Efinger, Director of Student Activities, along with the approval of cluster deans, selected the 10 overall best candidates for the positions regardless of cluster affiliation. Members of the Blue Key Society will continue to be assigned by cluster. During this new process, special attention was also paid to the issue of hazing. Stoldt said that he had anticipated hazing during his audition for Blue Key Head. He remembers applicants from the Class of 2008 being asked to take part in the “saltine challenge,” in which participants eat six saltines in 60 seconds without drinking water. However, the applicants generally found the auditions fun and comfortable. “I thought [the tryout] would be much more stressful than it was,” said Kozloff. Efinger and the outgoing Blue Key Heads had met before the interviews to define hazing and formulate appropriate questions that would be sensitive to the hazing issue, in response to concerns raised by past years’ tryouts. “We had to tread more cautiously than the Blue Key Heads last year with where to draw the line with respect to hazing, especially with tryouts happening during spring visits,” said Blaine Johnson, Flagstaff Blue Key Head. As part of a conscious effort to tone down hazing, according to Brian Watson, West Quad North Blue Key Head, “Every question was posed, ‘Would you like to…’” Johnson added that at any point during the interview applicants had the opportunity to say that a certain request made them feel uncomfortable and could move on to the next step without risk to their applications. Additionally, the current Blue Key Heads made sure that anything the students were asked to do pertained to the role Blue Key Head. Johnson said that she had not heard any specific qualms with the auditions this year. Blue Key Heads new and old appreciated the cluster-free selection process. “We wear tie-dye for a reason. We’re supposed to represent the whole school,” said Shannon. Shannon believes the old system prevented qualified candidates from being chosen for Blue Key Head because competition varied from cluster to cluster. The addition of Blue Key Heads to the Blue Key Society occurred in the 1970s, when the administration wanted student leaders to develop the dorm “cluster system.” Efinger said that while it was once advantageous to choose and organize Blue Key Heads by cluster, the many cluster leadership positions currently open to students reduces the need for Blue Key Heads to focus their leadership by cluster. “The Blue Key Heads represent all of the clusters,” said Efinger. “Nobody minds holding another flag.” The current Blue Key Heads are also in favor of the changes to the Blue Key Head selection process. Watson, said that the new process was beneficial because it increased competition for the positions. Simone Henry, West Quad South Blue Key Head, agreed with Watson. She said, “[Potential candidates] had to be the best.” Even with these changes, the overall application process has remained very similar from year to year, according to Johnson. “The point of the audition is to see how comfortable applicants are doing the types of things that Blue Key Heads will have to do, and you will be embarrassed sometimes [as a Blue Key Head],” Johnson said. For example, one Blue Key Head tradition requires applicants to do push-ups during the audition, because Blue Key Heads must do a push-up for every point that the Phillips Academy football team scores during games, Johnson said. Efinger identified several important characteristics for Blue Key Heads. “They need to be spirited, excitable, and always smiling. They have to love Andover,” she said. She also said the diversity of the Blue Key Heads is also considered while reviewing candidates, especially since the Blue Key Heads represent the entire student body. Despite being a faculty-sanctioned process, Blue Key Head tryouts have a reputation of being daunting. While the new Blue Key Heads took to celebrating their new roles, the outgoing heads offered them some advice. Watson said, “The job is a lot harder than it seems, a lot deeper than people think it is.” “People need to love it when it’s fun and when it’s not,” Henry cautioned. Maggie LeMaitre ’08, outgoing Abbot Blue Key Head, described the position as a “big challenge,” but said the new Blue Key Heads are “good kids [and] will rise to it.” LeMaitre acknowledged that it can be difficult to find a balance in a group of strong leaders working together. “It was a bumpy road for us at first,” Watson admitted. “There were some rough patches.” But the group may be well on their way to attaining their desired dynamic. Willis said, “Our group is amazing. Everyone sent congratulatory emails to each other after we found out.” Khan added, “We’re going to be one big happy family!” “They don’t even know how much fun they are going to have,” Henry said of the new team. “They have no idea what’s in store.”