In Depth

Definition of Hazing Questioned in BKH Selection Process

Screaming, serenading, push-ups and cheering are all considered common audition tasks for the Blue Key Head application process. However, some students and faculty question whether this Phillips Academy tradition overlaps with hazing, according to Dean of Students Marlys Edwards. Cynthia Efinger, Director of Student Activities, said, “Nobody is forced to do anything. We still consider applicants even if they are not comfortable with some activities. We choose the best of the best.” However, Edwards said, “Somebody auditioning could say, ‘I feel uncomfortable,’ but I can’t say it wouldn’t adversely affect them.” Edwards continued, “Rarely were there students who’d say that to me, but there were a number of faculty who felt very uncomfortable with what students were asked to do. Kids were moving through the process without adults knowing what measures were implemented. I talked to Mrs. Efinger and the deans about what it is that pushes for hazing in this process.” This year, in order to lessen the perception of hazing, Blue Key Heads framed questions beginning with, ‘would you please do this.’ Eliza Dewey ’09, a current Blue Key Head, said, “They said to you at the beginning, ‘You can tell us if you feel like you’re being hazed.’ I signed up for this and it didn’t bother me. The point of the auditions is that they want to see how you handle pressure with people watching.” Lawrence Zhou ’09 auditioned for Blue Key Head this year, but was not chosen. He agreed with Dewey’s sentiments. Zhou said, “I knew what was expected, and I knew what I had to do. You sign up to do it; it’s your choice, so it’s not hazing.” Veronica Faller ’09, who auditioned but was not chosen as Blue Key Head, said, “I don’t think it’s hazing because they don’t force you to do it, but at the same time if you don’t do it, it makes it seem like you have less of a chance of getting it. But all the things you do are relevant to being a Blue Key Head. It’s not random.” Nadine Khan ’09, a current Blue Key Head, said, “There was nothing uncomfortable. You can’t really feel uncomfortable when you’re filling out the applications and there’s nothing abnormal to do for the audition. The embarrassing parts are the fun bit [of the process].” Thor Shannon ’09, a current Blue Key Head, said, “I didn’t feel uncomfortable or embarrassed because the whole point of the awkward interview questions is to see if we would be embarrassed, which we’re not supposed to be. Blue Key Heads can’t be embarrassed because the whole point of the job is to do embarrassing things.” Rekha Auguste-Nelson ’09, who auditioned but was not chosen as Blue Key Head, said, “It’s supposed to be good fun. Some people were asked more serious questions that might’ve made them uncomfortable, but I wouldn’t classify it as hazing.” Nancy Ann Little ’08, who just completed her tenure as Blue Key Head, said, “Hazing is really a difficult thing. Certainly on one hand, applicants know what they’re getting into. Auditions are in a public place so the line can’t be crossed. Granted, peers are staring them down…” Sadiqa Farrow ’09 who auditioned but was not chosen as Blue Key Head said, “It’s not hazing. It’s school culture. I don’t think anyone could ever mistake it for hazing.” Edwards said, “It’s important to realize that no one in charge of the auditions is being vindictive. They’re just following what’s been done in the past. Sometimes we may get caught up in ‘traditions,’ so that’s when we take a step back and make sure that we’re doing the right thing.”