2009 State of the Academy Results Reveal Trends in Academic and Student Life at PA

Sleeping habits have improved, alcohol consumption has decreased on campus and students still perceive grading disparities as a problem, as the 2009 State of the Academy survey has suggested. This year, 725 students from Andover’s student body completed the survey conducted by The Phillipian. Approximately 45 percent of respondents were male, and 55 percent were female. Boarders constituted 71.6 percent of the respondents, and day students constituted 28.4 percent. All classes were represented by similar numbers of students. Over a third of respondents (34.6 percent) said that they would lie if they broke a major rule and knew that they could escape disciplinary action through dishonesty. The number of students who admitted to alcohol use to the extent that their parents would disapprove dropped from 51 percent last year to 36.8 percent this year. Of the respondents who have consumed alcohol, 34.8 percent have done so on campus. Paul Murphy, Dean of Students and Residential Life, said that this decrease could be attributed to the school’s decision to allow for alcohol testing with a breathalyzer. “[The use of alcohol testing] has a deterrent effect,” said Murphy. “It works itself into kids’ decision making…now there isn’t the option of trying to lie if you get caught.” The number of students who claimed to have used marijuana increased slightly compared to last year. 26 percent of respondents this year said they had used marijuana, compared to 20.7 percent last year. While only 5.7 percent of respondents this year indicated that they had sat before a disciplinary committee, almost half (48.8 percent) admitted to having illegal car permissions, an offense that could result in a DC. Results of the survey reported that students sleep a median amount of seven hours per night. This number is up from last year’s median of six hours of sleep. A significantly higher percentage slept eight or more hours on average this year compared to last year’s results. “Getting no sleep is part of the Andover culture,” said Faiyad Ahmad ’10, School President. “It’s almost a source of pride when you get no sleep.” This year, 26.1 percent of students indicated that they have participated in sexual intercourse, up from 22 percent last year. Out of those who have had sex, 59 percent said that they have had sex both on and off campus, while 14 percent responded that they have had sex only on campus. 17.2 percent of day students responded that they have had sex, compared to 29.4 percent of boarders. 16.0 percent of those who have had sex on campus listed their sexuality as “Unsure.” As in previous years, students’s opinions on Andover’s effect on college admissions varied. A majority (53.4 percent) believed that Andover has helped their chances of admission, while 26.0 percent believe it hurt their chances. 68.6 percent of African-American students felt Andover has helped their chances, the highest out of any ethnic group. “It is distracting to think of Andover as hurting chances,” said Murphy. “Until you leave, you have no idea of the difference this experience makes.” This year, 88.6 percent of respondents believed that grading disparities existed at Andover, up from 73.3 percent last year. 49.5 percent of students thought that these disparities were unfair. The other 39.1 percent who saw the disparities felt that the inconsistencies were permissible. Uppers were most likely to see these disparities as unfair, with 58.7 percent. “There is a larger-scale discussion that must be held about [students’ views of these disparities],” said Ahmad. Ahmad added that his discussions with school administrators could help to address the problem of grading disparities. 78.9 percent of respondents said that the English Department had the most significant grading disparities. 50.2 percent said this inconsistency also occurs in the History Department. English and History were also chosen most by students as their hardest classes. These results were similar to last year’s survey, although in 2008 the Science Department was also indicated as one of the hardest department in grading. Respondents chose the World Language Department as the easiest graded department, with Theater and Dance and Math following suit. In 2008, World Languages was also regarded as the easiest department. The majority of respondents said that the grades they receive accurately reflect their knowledge of a subject, but among Uppers a slight majority (50.6 percent) disagreed with this. In general, student opinions towards faculty were positive, with only a 1.8 percent reporting that they felt the relationship was poor. Student sentiments on their relationship with administrators were less positive. The most common perception of the student-administration relationship was “okay,” but there were more responses of “poor” than those of “good” and “excellent” combined. More students this year did not believe that Student Council was an effective representative body—69 percent this year, up from 47.9 percent last year. “If it is a majority [that believe Student Council is ineffective], than it clearly isn’t effective enough,” said Ahmad. “What I want to do is to revamp Student Council from the bottom up, and make it as effective and transparent as possible.” “If we [Student Council] do what we set out to accomplish, and people know about it, people will think it is more effective,” he added. Results from the survey also showed that students reportedly spent more time participating in extracurricular activities this year compared to last. Although 92.9 percent of respondents expressed that they were happy to have come to Andover, only 83.5 percent said they would send their child here.