We Need to Worry

Of course we don’t have sexism or harassment or assault at Andover. Maybe they have that at Yale, but we don’t have that at Andover.

Of course, they thought the same thing at Yale. The cultural ills that still plague our modern world were supposed to turn away at the gates and go on to haunt other institutions, other places. Because bad things happen in other places, not at Yale, and certainly not at Andover.

Yale is a “good school”. It, like Andover, has existed for over two centuries, has alumni featured prominently in history textbooks and prides itself on a tiny acceptance rate. Attending that type of school guarantees certain things—a fabulous education, a driven, intellectual community and opportunities to learn from those who lead their fields.

I’ve experienced all of the privileges of a prestigious institution, and I’m tremendously grateful. Attending a “good school,” however, though it guarantees many other benefits, does not guarantee an atmosphere of tolerance and caring. That has to be worked for, and that work can’t be finished, or even properly begun, unless people acknowledge that it’s necessary.

So let’s return to the opening sentence, to the idea that Andover doesn’t need to worry about sexism. Several of the problems cited by those who filed the complaint about Yale can also be found at Andover.

We rely on a similarly ancient internal reporting system to deal with sexual assault, which is mentioned in the Blue Book (pages 7-8). An editorial published in Volume CXXXIII, Number 27 of The Phillipian defended the use of the word “feminazi.” During Wellness Week, many in the Upper class is still unsure of the definition of date rape. Andover is a great school, but we must recognize that this great school struggles with gender issues.

Of course, sexism doesn’t have a monopoly on denial and apathy. In my time at Andover, I’ve heard people ask many different versions of the same question. “Why should we worry about racism, about religious intolerance, about censorship, about socio-economic inequality, about (insert the issue of your choice)? They don’t happen here.”

I wish this were true. I can try to pretend that Andover is a paradisiacal world of green lawns and perfect happiness. But this Andover nirvana, tempting though it is to believe already exists, cannot become reality unless we improve the school that is actually here.

Now, you may argue that the problems I previously listed truly aren’t present on the campus of Phillips Academy. But let us remember that at Phillips Academy, “here” is not limited to the campus. “Here” is the town of Andover, and Boston, and Lawrence, and everywhere that students, faculty and staff travel from to be here. Andover is a mess of a Venn diagram, filled with multitudes of circles of interests, beliefs, experiences and relationships. For every injustice and hardship there are many people who have been touched by it.

There is no “other place.” The world’s worries are ours, because Andover is truly a smorgasbord of ideologies, misconceptions and traditions. Why don’t we shoulder them together for the people whom we know and whom we love and whom are affected by them, instead of arguing over whether or not they’re there?

Abigail Burman is a new Upper from Silver Spring, MD.