Our Way of Welcoming

When I think of the words “Andover” and “tradition,” I tend to conjure up images of blonde haired blue-eyed Anglo Saxon Protestant men in blazers, wandering around campus and discussing Chaucer. I am thinking of the traditions that make Andover a place where students feel at home and make them excited to go to such a school. I am thinking of the traditions that made me feel quite welcome as a freshman. Who can forget the “Midnight” March or the first time one heard the Seniors screaming and cheering at ASM for all of the hard work that they had accomplished? There are very few students, if any, who take offense to such traditions. Yet somehow, some have expressed displeasure with these wonderful initiation ceremonies. There are members of the faculty who feel that these traditions have no place in this school. They are wrong. These traditions play a large part in welcoming the new students and making them excited for their Andover career. I remember quite well when Carlos Hoyt, Associate Dean of Students, declared in The Phillipian last term the opening ASM as “crazy-disrespectful” and that the Seniors cheering was actually an “erupting volcano of oppositonalism thinly masked as enthusiasm.” I have never felt alienated by this “erupting volcano.” If anything, I understand that Seniors have worked hard to get to the last stage of their Andover career. Discontinuing this tradition on the basis that it is offensive to the rest of the school not only shows a lack of understanding of the tradition but is offensive to those Seniors who are genuinely enthusiastic about being Seniors. Most 12th graders are enthusiastic about being Seniors, especially at Andover. They have worked themselves to the point where they can start to see the finish line, college, a new beginning. “Oppositionalism” has a connotation of anger. What student would be angry about graduating to the last stage of high school? Someone commented on Hoyt’s article on The Phillipian website, “Demonstrating that superiority to the other classes brings Seniors together, but the bonds between underclassmen and Seniors aren’t weakened by this behavior—they’re strengthened.” I wholeheartedly agree with that statement. As a Junior, I respected the Seniors for taking pride in their “superiority,” which I do not think is negative in this case; they are superior because they have survived most of the Andover experience. To discontinue this tradition of cheering would not only breed a sense of ennui among the Seniors, but a lack of respect among the underclassmen that look up to the Seniors for encouragement. I remember the “Midnight” March, and the exhilarating feeling of running up the lawn to SamPhil to be subsequently cheered on by Blue Key Heads. Unfortunately, by the time I was a Junior there no longer was a midnight march, but more of a 9:30 march. Perhaps we would have been so fatigued by running at midnight that our little bodies would have collapsed. And I can say with full confidence that running up the lawn was the most invigorating feeling I had as a Junior. If anyone came screaming to me at 9:30 at night to go walking up the lawn to SamPhil, there probably would have been some vulgar words involved. It was the running and screaming that made the night worth it. My heart started pumping, and it finally hit me that I was a student at Phillips Academy Andover. If we become so worried about offending anyone, and our school environment is going to become so uptight, there will be no more sense of pride that we get through these ceremonies. We are simply teenagers who are getting excited about going to such a wonderful school. We are not rebelling against the faculty. These traditions hurt no one. They only build pride in our community. I will concede that there are probably traditions that are harmful to this community. I am certainly not saying that this issue is simply the administration against students. There are adults in this community who are insightful enough to know that these traditions breed camaraderie among all students. We should not let these traditions be taken away by the few who choose to speak. Ben Talarico is a three-year Upper from Suquamish, Washington.