To the Editor:
During last Wednesday night’s Co-Presidential debate, we noticed that many people had concerns linked to gender and our candidacy. In light of these concerns, we hope to make clear that we too are concerned with the gender imbalance in student leadership, because it is one of the most pressing issues our campus faces. To say otherwise would be foolish. As many have observed, we are at a crossroads. As such, we must use this moment to progress forward. However, this forward movement must not be constricted to the confines of gender.
Let us first clarify what motivated us to run. We decided to run together because we believed that together we would be best equipped to lead and represent our diverse student body. Moreover, we did so recognizing not only that we are great friends, but that we are great teammates.
Yet since then, our candidacy has sparked the concern of many on this campus who believe that our gender inhibits our ability to represent the student body. Let us be clear from the outset: there has been a persistent gender imbalance in student leadership since the merger of Phillips Academy and Abbot Academy in 1973. Only four females have served as School President in the past forty years. Seeing as women currently make up 50 percent of the student population, this is a puzzling statistic. As we have both noted on numerous occasions, the Academy must have a meaningful, honest conversation about this issue, for we have failed to do so in the past.
That said, we worry that, in light of the creation of the Co-Presidential model, the focus has shifted away from which pair is the most competent and qualified to which pair best satisfies the gender-balance equation for which we strive. The sentiments of those seeking to fight the gender imbalance are indeed laudable. We, however, note two significant flaws in the line of reasoning which suggests that “adequate representation” necessitates having one male and one female president.
Moreover, nowhere was it mentioned that a Co-Presidential ticket must contain one man and one woman. In saying that by both being men we do not satisfactorily represent the student body, one upholds the false premise that our masculinity makes us identical. It is fundamentally erroneous to assume that gender balance is the sole barometer of adequate representation.
We are of different races, come from different backgrounds and participate in different activities on campus. To lump us as a single entity, solely based on our gender, would be misguided. To criticize a male-male pair based on their gender is to confine the argument to an extremely subjective and restrictive parameter.
Secondly, we must not use this crossroads to absorb ourselves in the characteristics which divide us. The false dichotomies of masculinity and femininity, blackness and whiteness or liberalism and conservatism do not define us. Andover’s Statement of Purpose reads: “the school strives to help young people achieve their potential not only intellectually, but also artistically, athletically, and morally…” We must recognize that gender equality is a very serious issue. However, we must not let this issue restrict us from examining which pair is most qualified to lead the student body towards “achiev[ing] [its] potential.”
We are not running together out of spite for the new system, nor are we doing so with the goal of continuing the trend of male leadership in Student Council. We are running together because we believe that we work best together to lead Phillips Academy in the right direction. Above all else, do not let our gender or any other birth traits hinder you from seeing our potential as Co-Presidential candidates.
Clark Perkins ’14
Junius Williams ’14