An Inaccurate Measuring Stick

Last week The Phillipian confirmed that since 2004, only a few Black and Latino students have been inducted into the Cum Laude Society. While induction into the Society is an honor, the selection criteria favors certain students while neglecting to take into account other important factors of achievement.. The students in the Society who achieve honor grades during their time at Andover may not necessarily be the most talented or the most intelligent students at Andover. According to grades on record, however, they are. Just as the SAT cannot thoroughly assess a student’s qualifications, the school’s requirements for induction into Cum Laude Society inaccurately measures a student’s academic achievements. When the question of under-representation of minority students (excluding Asians) in the Society arises, it surfaces deeper issues that reach beyond the simplicity of minority students’ grades. The school has a partial way of judging a student’s achievements because it does not factor in the courses that some students take in comparison to others. It is possible that these honor grades may be coming from classes that are not as academically demanding as others. Some students may be accepted into the Society because of exceptional grades, but their courses may include African Drumming rather than AP Physics. Hence, this further shows how the Society leaves no wiggle room for discrepancies. As Linda Griffith, Dean of CAMD, said, “It is important that we recognize that the [Society] is not the determining factor for any student’s success. Black and Latino students have earned their place here. Their successes and achievements in many non-academic fields are bountiful and deserve to be recognized beyond the limits of the [Society]”. There are socioeconomic differences and in turn, academic privileges, that contribute to under-representation of minority students in the Society. For students at this school coming from lower-middle or lower class families, who may be minorities, the academic opportunities that they had prior to Andover’s rigorous curriculum were limited when compared to students from higher-income families. For example, these students may have attended poorly funded schools in their neighborhood and may not have learned basic tools for success. Students from lower-income families in poor neighborhoods arrive here with drastic academic disadvantages when compared to students from affluent backgrounds. Programs like ACE in the summer were designed to allow students who started with less academic privileges to advance in coursework; however, these programs are inadequate. Denying that these disadvantages deter students, especially Black and Latino students, from maintaining honor grades to qualify for the Cum Laude Society would be foolish. In addition, there are minority students who come from households where community involvement is just as important as a good education. Even so, Black and Latino students are prone not only to strive for academic success, but to also focus on community issues and partake in activities to improve conditions for others. Also, coming to an institution with a student body composed of 21 percent Asian, 9 percent Black and 5 percent Hispanic students, minority students are prone to feel the pressure. This spotlight may force minority students to feel like they must do better and always be on top. A stereotype threat is the fear of being seen through the lens of a negative stereotype or doing something that will confirm that stereotype. There is pressure for many minority students to defy the stereotypes for fear of rejection from peers. According to Phillips Academy’s 1778 Constitution, “goodness without knowledge is weak…yet knowledge without goodness is dangerous.” Spending one’s Andover career fixated on getting honor grades in classes is risky. Without any accomplishments other than a flawless GPA, what kind of achievement does that Andover student gain? There is no doubt that a world outside of making the Cum Laude Society exists. “Many students of color who were not in the Society when they graduated leave here to achieve immense success beyond the doors of Andover,” Griffith said. As students of Phillips Academy, we come from all walks of life to grow and develop into greater thinkers and human beings. While we have our challenges, we need to keep our school’s mission in mind to better serve ourselves and others. Nicole Okai is a three-year Upper from Corona, New York. Ijeoma Ejiogu is two-year Lower from Springfield Gardens, New York.