Commentary

Don’t Let the Traditions Go

“Dress code, dress code! Safety school, safety school!” Most students and alumni recognize these sayings as a few of the spirited taunts we throw at our rival Exonians during athletic events. It is one of the irreplaceable parts of an Andover/Exeter game. In fact, the age-old rivalry between the two prep schools has been a time-honored tradition centered around the annual athletic competitions. Imagine if students were not allowed to express their school pride at those games because it was labeled disrespectful. Or worse, if one day the rivalry was deemed aggressive and the Andover/Exeter games were canceled. It may seem unthinkable and preposterous, but nowadays, it seems likely that such a day may be approaching sooner than we think. With the end of some of Andover’s greatest traditions, this community is losing sight of our school’s individuality and charm. Our school is often portrayed in admissions brochures as the quintessential New England prep school, with its manicured lawns and classic brick buildings. However, there is a key element that sets Andover apart from other prep schools. Andover has its own timeless traditions that make it unique from Deerfield or Exeter. In fact, these traditions are sometimes the deciding factor when prospective students are choosing schools. From the Midnight March for new students to the highly anticipated Senior entrance during the first All-School Meeting, some rituals can only be claimed by Phillips Academy. When we tamper with tradition out of fear of the unknown, we are stripping our dear school of its charming qualities that lured students initially. Unfortunately, there has been some tampering in past years. Here’s a shocker. The Midnight March actually used to take place at midnight. People actually burned a wooden “A” and ran screaming from their dorms. As of late, the March is at 9:30 pm. Blue Key Heads gently usher students to Sam Phil and lead them through cheers. While this is a satisfactory way to welcome new students to Andover’s traditional cheers, some elements have changed for the worse. Though a proud member of the class of 2010, I am sad to say that my March was quite different from the one that I witnessed last Friday night. The new students were called upon two hours earlier. While the Midnight March has changed drastically in the past years, other traditions are being meddled with in more subtle ways. Though it has long been a Senior privilege to cheer at the first ASM, there were some who disagreed with the tradition’s exclusivity altogether. This year, the first ASM was also spent recognizing remarkable faculty in our community which helped keep the spotlight from remaining solely on a rowdy, rude Senior class. The class of 2010 did a great job remaining respectful in the chapel while still showing its famous class pride. And the balance worked for most Seniors. Jessica Moreno ’10 said that, “It went well and Seniors got to have their time to celebrate. We had to be more reserved, it was not really bad because we still got to show our pride. But it was interesting to watch the faculty’s reactions.” But had the Senior class behaved disrespectfully like the classes before them, the next Senior class would have most likely lost this privilege. It seems that more rules and restrictions are accumulating as special traditions are disappearing. While some traditions should be adjusted if dangerous, most are just to add excitement and originality to the Andover experience. Where else would you wait for hours in the dining hall hoping that your headmaster appears with an old, worn field hockey stick? Find me another prep school where there is a student and faculty talent show. These little traditions that some may take for granted are important to a student’s life at Andover. If these traditions are taken away from us little by little, what foundation will we have to fall back on in the end? Nicole Okai is a four-year Senior from Corona, New York. nokai@andover.edu