After Fulbeck, Future of Political Speakers at ASM in Doubt

In the wake of artist Kip Fulbeck’s charged political commentary at All-School Meeting, ASM planners are evaluating future speakers to strike political balance. Carlos Hoyt, Coordinator for All-School Meetings, said, “I think there is a legitimate and accurate observation … that, more often than not, guest speakers seem to represent liberal-leaning, maybe Democratic, [views].” Hoyt said that he has taken these observations into consideration, since All-School Meetings are mandatory and pertain to a “great plurality of views.” “There’s a part of me that doesn’t want to … close the gate on [expressing political views],” said Hoyt. “But there is also a part of me that is very sensitive to there being balance and an opportunity for our bright and articulate students to at least go toe-to-toe a little bit if they disagree with someone who’s presenting.” “[Fulbeck’s presentation] bothered me because it was in my view that his presentation form obscured his essential message,” said Hoyt. However, Hoyt said that he did not know if the school should set regulations for future speakers. Andover selects ASM speakers based on the proposals of students, faculty and alumni that Hoyt receives. After determining whether the speakers will be available and beneficial to the Andover community, Hoyt submits the names to a number of administrators and students. “All of those names come through me … and I send it back up to lots of people, including the Head of School, Mrs. Sykes, Deans’ Table and Student Council,” said Hoyt. “And then we book it and hope for the best.” Hoyt booked most of the speakers on this year’s All-School Meeting calendar at the end of last year and throughout the summer. Former ambassador Dennis Ross will speak on campus, after students voiced a desire to hear a speaker address the Middle East conflict, according to Hoyt. Journalist Sander Vanocur will also come at the recommendation of an alum. “The further in advance we can settle it the better, because then we can figure out the rhythm of the school year … and feel more secure about our schedule,” said Hoyt. The school does not use any formal system of feedback for All-School Meetings. Hoyt said that he generally receives feedback from students who approach him on the path, teachers who discuss ASM in their classrooms, Deans’ Table and Student Council. However, Hoyt said that he is considering a voluntary post-ASM survey system to receive more feedback from the Andover community because he would like a “metered evaluation” for All-School Meetings. “I’d like to think we’re moving towards a greater predictability of what sorts of things happen at All-School, and hopefully pretty compelling guest speakers,” said Hoyt. Now in his second year coordinating All-School Meetings, Hoyt said that he did not make any significant changes to ASM last year because he was new to the position and was still learning. Over the course of the year, though, Hoyt sponsored forums with the Philomathean Society and other venues to discuss ASM. Hoyt said, “Coming out of that, the themes that emerged were: Should we even have a Chapel ASM every week? What kind of speaker should there be? How can we achieve balance in terms of viewpoints?” Hoyt attempted to address these questions in coordinating this year’s All-School Meeting system. In response to the concerns raised over weekly meetings in Cochran Chapel, Hoyt designed this year’s calendar so that other forms of assemblies would replace some of the slots once allocated to All-School Meetings. “This year, the calendar is built such that there may be three or four All-School Meetings in the chapel, followed by a break. Those breaks may be cluster meetings, or All-Class Meetings or something else,” said Hoyt. Hoyt said that “the idea of All-Class Meetings was pretty appealing,” because they could take place in free periods when the College Counseling Office (CCO) held meetings with Uppers or Seniors. “Historically, when CCO met with Uppers or Seniors, that meant no All-School. So Juniors, Lower and Uppers, for instance, would be off if Seniors were with CCO,” said Hoyt. “My hope is that this [rotation] does create a nice rhythm in and out of the chapel, and then we can return to the chapel as a collective family,” he said.