Rumor Has It

The Andover rumor mill kicked into overdrive last week. Everywhere we turned, there was talk of drug busts, DC’s, questioning, dismissal, leaves of absence and incriminating text messages. Many students across campus were enraged, some at the rule breakers, others at the rule makers. The lack of factual information available, combined with a teenage penchant for juicy gossip, bred an atmosphere of hysteria on campus. But everyone needs to take a deep breath. Let’s get the facts straight: approximately 20 students were investigated for various allegations of rule-breaking, including distribution and use of marijuana, and four have left the school permanently, one of which was a dismissal. 15 Disciplinary Committee hearings have taken place. The inflammatory nature of the wild rumors about 40-something DC’s has generated extreme anti-administration sentiments among students. Other students accuse these dissenters of being stereotypical teenagers ready to rally against authority of all kinds. From there, the tension only heightens. Students across campus felt that their rights were infringed upon when administrators looked at a student’s text messages. But the administration’s use of cell phones was legal, and the school has a responsibility to enforce the rules of the Blue-Book as they see appropriate. That means holding students responsible for their actions and enforcing the expectation that Andover should be a drug-free campus. Nevertheless, students have a right to think critically about how the administration has handled the situation. For example, if the administration had more thoroughly considered the consequences of their actions, they would not have left the whole community in the dark for an entire week, breeding panic and rumors. Though whispers of the investigations began circulating among students as early as Tuesday, November 2, it was not until Monday, November 8, that the student body received a cryptic email vaguely confirming the fact that something newsworthy had happened on campus. The faculty were hardly better informed. One of the emails to the faculty, which was intended to clarify the Sanctuary policy, was so confusing that some faculty members misinterpreted it to mean that Sanctuary had been temporarily revoked. When this information reached students, it only served to increase outrage. Although the poor communication between the administration and faculty is troubling, it is also an easily resolvable problem. In future large investigations, if the administrations would only release a few basic facts for students and faculty to think about, the number and magnitude of rumors would decline. Students have a right to be angry at the behavior of their peers and the frustrated with the punishments they or their friends might receive. Yet, more than anger and frustration, confusion has dominated campus for the past two weeks, and this is the fault of the administration. We cannot jump to conclusions about the administration based on an immature “stick it to the man” ideology that is so present on campus, nor can we willfully submit to every rule, policy and statement made by those in authority. Dissent must be informed and within reason. It cannot be amplified by creating a false enemy in the administration, nor can it be supported by faulty senses of student responsibility. This whole situation can be a learning experience for the entire Andover community. Instead of indiscriminately instituting policies without addressing the students or faculty, the administration should, in the future, act to inform the community in an honest and forthright manner. However, the students also have an obligation to avoid demonizing the administration at every opportunity, regardless of whether there is adequate justification. We need informed debate, not impassioned paranoia. This Editorial represents the views of The Phillipian Editorial Board CXXXIII.