Parallel PA

The long and arduous Andover fall. It’s an entity usually remarkable not for its excitement and variation but for its sheer, sometimes meditative, most times frustrating monotony. But like the snow that stormed across campus on a Halloween weekend that, considering the Santa Claus costumes, might as well have been Christmas, this fall was a jarring deviation from the usual. These interminable weeks have taught Andover something crucial about itself: there are many possible Andovers.

Students, surprised by a blanketed white campus, broken branches and limbs blocking paths, will testify to the parallel nature of experiences at Andover this fall. One day Andover is in the middle of a warm fall, the next it is a scene from a midwinter afternoon. One week Andover is a tight, isolated community. The next week students are off to Boston in attempt to aid and understand the Occupy movement.

For nearly 18 years, Barbara Chase has been the Head of School, and for months her replacement is little more than one of many mysterious possible candidates. Then, in an instant in the Smith Center, her successor, John G. Palfrey, becomes real. A new Andover will arrive sooner than the Class of 2012 can imagine.

The twists and turns of the term offer glimpses into other Andovers that community routines tend to conceal. After distilling the distinct variations, students might start to consider the notion of the best of all possible Andovers. “The best place to learn, live and work,” as Palfrey said in his introductory speech, is Andover’s fundamental calling.

The excitement of a premature winter wonderland, offset by the burden of relocating dislodged students, introduced the most visceral sensation of shift to an alternate Andover. But, it provoked little thought about the possible characteristics of alternate Andovers, except that they might be cold. Students familiar with winter term are already too familiar with this world.

Other anomalies of the term suggested concrete aspects alternate Andovers. For students who accessed Arab Spring through newspapers, television and Twitter, the flurry of activity around the Occupy Boston Movement tore down the illusion that political protest occurs only in far off countries. It was easy to imagine the activities a train ride away coming even closer to campus.

The unusual frenzy of fall did the Andover community a favor in alerting students to possibility of different versions of this school. Recognizing this alone, easier said than done, is the first step in donning an active approach to shaping our school into “the best of all possible Andovers,” whatever that means to us.

This Editorial represents the views of The Phillipian Editorial Board CXXXIV.