Remembering the Withdrawn

In the first 10 weeks of fall term, the Class of 2012 has seen at least seven kids leave. This means that roughly every one and a half weeks since the start of school, a Lower has either withdrawn or been kicked out. I am writing to remember one such Lower. We as a student body are sometimes quick to forget people who leave, even people who meant a great deal to us while they were here. He was a new Lower this year. I met him at a soccer prep camp in Maine near the end of this summer. We became good friends at camp, and I continued talking to him once we got to school. However, as the term wore on, I started talking to him less and heard about his increasing drug use through the Andover rumor mill. “My drug use definitely escalated while I was here,” he said. Early in the term, he got in trouble for over cutting and falsely signing out to the library. After the dust settled, he was put on Warning for academic dishonesty and was required to go to Graham House for motivation and depression counseling. He said that in addition to going to Graham House, he also had to meet with both his teachers outsides of class and the Academic Support Center. “I was OK with the Warning,” he said. “I viewed it as a mistake on my part and I definitely think I deserved it.” But, with the Warning came two weeks of tightly monitored disciplinary restriction. Restriction may have led to the incident that ultimately forced him to withdraw. He said, “After I got off my two weeks of restriction, I wanted to have a celebratory time. I felt like I was finally done with being in trouble at Andover.” He said that hearing stories about people drinking led him to believe that drinking was not that uncommon during Andover/Exeter weekend. There’s no need to go into the details of what happened next. He and a few other kids got caught drinking, an incident that eventually led to his withdrawal. He did not fit at Andover. Although his friends spanned across all grades and he enjoyed his classes to some degree, there was a fundamental rift between him and school. He could not meet Andover’s requirements, and Andover could not meet his wants. This is neither his fault nor Andover’s. Andover offered him counseling and gave him a second chance. But this wasn’t what he needed. He wanted to maintain a free and easy lifestyle that Andover simply does not allow. This story serves as an example for two things. First, it reminds us that Andover does not exist for particular students. Though Andover has great resources, it cannot possibly ease every student through every incident of teenage angst and poor judgment. Andover’s first responsibility is to the community as whole. This includes the students, the faculty, OPP workers, Commons workers and alumni. As with any diverse community, it is hard to balance the needs of each component with those of the other components. And unfortunately, sometimes students are forced to withdraw so that the school can maintain the community as it sees fit. But why is it necessary to force kids to withdraw? Are they truly damaging the community? This question leads to the second point. Every student, worker or faculty member at this school is connected to everyone else. There is no Andover; there is only the web of connections between everyone who we think of as part of “Andover.” The behavior of one group of students affects every person connected to Andover, even if the connection is not clear. For example, though one incident of drinking in a boy’s dorm may not directly affect any members of small girls dorm, the rumor will undoubtedly spread throughout the school and might be a topic of conversation in the girls dorm that night. At least in this example, the drinking did affect that dorm. This case offers some insight into the nature of Andover. However, it is more important to remember this person and the other kids who have left this term than to analyze their departure. As we prepare to leave for Thanksgiving break and fall term draws to a close, it may seem easy to forget the departures from Andover. But it is very important not to forget any of the kids who have left this term. If you have a friend who left, and you find yourself remembering them over Thanksgiving break, take to time to also consider the other kids who have left this term. In some small way, whether it is clear or not, their departure affected everyone on campus, including you. Max Block is a two-year Lower and Associate Commentary Editor from Norwich, VT.