Administrators Raise Concern Over Team Skits at Pep Rallies

Students and administrators met to discuss the future of team skits at pep rallies on Wednesday night in the Den at 8:30 p.m. Paul Murphy, Dean of Students and Residential Life, called for the meeting with Mike Kuta, Athletic Director, and Cindy Efinger, Director of Student Activities. The three invited only Blue Key Heads and varsity sports captains to the meeting. In recent years, the fall and winter pep rallies, usually held the night before Andover/Exeter games, have consisted of entertainment from each season’s varsity teams. The teams elect to perform skits, which sometimes involve singing and dancing. Murphy has not yet decided whether the skits will be allowed or not by press time, but he said he would release his decision at the end of the week. Murphy had originally decided to cancel the skits and informed Kuta and Efinger so they could meet with students to discuss how to proceed. “[I called the meeting] to explain a decision I had made about not including team skits in the pep rally. I felt like I needed to let the key players know how my thought process led to that decision,” Murphy said. “The skits have gotten raunchier, so it’s a normal conversation for us to have had.” “It’s a community event, not a student event. I should be able to go to the pep rally and not be creeped out by teams who don’t get their skits together on time and decide to take off as many clothes as possible and gyrate around the gym to hoots and hollers. Do I need to be a part of that? It needs fixing,” said Murphy. Murphy expected to discuss ideas to replace the team skits, but the captains and Blue Key Heads showed a desire to compromise with Murphy. “I was hoping that [the Blue Key Heads and varsity captains] would hear my reasons for [canceling the skits], understand those reasons and start thinking creatively about how to reshape the pep rally in the next six weeks. What I heard instead was more passion for these team skits than I believed was there,” Murphy said. “They didn’t change my reasoning necessarily but gave me more information,” Murphy continued. Murphy said that before he releases his final decision, he needs to speak with cluster deans, Rebecca Sykes, Associate Head of School, and Kuta, who will then consult varsity coaches. When asked why he has never presented the issue to students before, Murphy said, “It didn’t seem like I needed to do anything. People should have known [the situation] was bad.” “[There] hasn’t been a formal faculty discussion either,” said Murphy. “For the past couple of years, the skits have become increasingly raunchy,” Murphy said. “[Even if there is just one raunchy skit], after it’s over, you just can’t believe you brought your children to see.” “Of course the shock value [of inappropriate skits] is attractive to people. That’s the problem. The incentive is to be edgy and cool and get a rise out of it,” Murphy continued. “Many adults don’t attend the pep rally. Certain groups of kids have told me they feel they’re made fun of so they don’t attend the pep rally anymore,” he said. “What my concern was is that we created a structure for the pep rally that is very difficult to manage.” Katherine Sherrill ’10, Captain of Girls Varsity Soccer, said, “I understand that there needs to be changes from last year’s pep rally, and I understand that Andover as a community is built on the strong relationship between the adults students and families on the campus.” “But at the same time, those who are going to the pep rally are students and kids and what we find funny isn’t necessarily going to be the same thing as what an older adult finds funny,” Sherrill said. Sherill added that if the skits were appropriate enough, the balance of content should not have to tilt towards the adults. “The adults aren’t the ones playing in the games the next day and in the end this is a pep rally for the kids,” she said. “We finished [the meeting] last night with someone saying ultimately [the pep rally is] a student-to-student event, and ultimately it shouldn’t matter that there are adults and parents there. I disagreed with that person – I should be able to go to the pep rally without being creeped out,” said Murphy. Caroline Gezon ’10, Captain of Girls Cross-Country, said, “I thought that Mr. Murphy brought up some very valid points, but I think that the best way to deal with the problem is to work together to reach a compromise.” “The captains and the sports teams are more than willing to do anything, whether it is sign an agreement beforehand, have repercussions if the skits are inappropriate or have a dress rehearsal the week before,” Gezon continued. “We’re willing to do anything to keep the pep rally going.” Curtis Hon ’10, Captain of Boys Varsity Water Polo, said, “I understand why Murphy feels that way. What he was proposing was stopping [the skits] altogether: I think there is a more reasonable alternative. What we talked about was that we’d work things out and he wouldn’t take this away from us.” “They proposed that they take the skits entirely away,” said Avery Stone ’10, Captain of the Girls Varsity Field Hockey team. “A lot of the kids were surprised, myself included, that the problem was so serious. I’ve been on teams for four years and there’s never been a clear process for how the skits are judged before the pep rally and what the consequences are for an inappropriate skit.” Murphy said, “I do trust students. If nothing else, Andover is based on the faculty trusting the students to do the right thing. We’re based on a lot of trust. The problem is it doesn’t take a whole lot to break that trust.”