An Overview of Student Government at Andover Since 1973

The establishment of a School President position in 1973 followed a recommendation from the Andover’s Advisory Committee (AdCom), made up of both students and faculty. AdCom suggested the School President be elected by the six Cluster Presidents from the Cluster Presidents themselves. The School President, according to the 1973 Phillipian article, would serve primarily as an ex-officio member of AdCom and partake in administrative tasks. 

Prior to this date, the six Cluster Presidents were responsible for much of the day-to-day executive tasks, so the School President was intended to bridge the gap between the students’ “executive” body—the Cluster Council—and faculty.

* * *

# Interactive Timeline:

* * *

As time went on, however, it became clear that the student body wanted to vote their School President directly. Based on a questionnaire to the students about the election process, Don Rimsky ’75, School President, decided to allow the entire student body to vote for a School President out of the pool of six Cluster Presidents, according to a 1975 Phillipian article. 

The same year, the Committee of Residential Life (CRL), consisting only of faculty and administrators, replaced AdCom. While CRL was only an advising body with few legislative powers, students still felt a lack of representation in school decision-making, as editorialized by The Phillipian. 

In response, CRL suggested in 1979 to allow Cluster Presidents to vote at faculty meetings. This proposal was not passed. 

In 1981, Hadley Soutter ’82 was elected the first female School President. She wrote in an e-mail to The Phillipian, “It was a healthy representation of capable, spirited, and giving young women robustly involved in a range of leadership roles we felt meaningfully connected to, from nurturing newcomers, to working out  policy, to offering critiques of campus life.” 

In 1988, after debate over the lack of student voice in decision-making, the faculty voted to implement a School Congress, which included the entire faculty, Student Council and representatives from the minority groups: Afro-Latino-American Society, Asian Society, Jewish Student Union and Women’s Forum. 

The student members had the same opportunity to speak and vote as teachers on student-related issues only. Some faculty members questioned the inclusion of Women’s Forum’s participation in the Congress, as they composed 48 percent of the student body and had equal representation in Student Council, according to a May 6 article. 

The same May 6, 1988 article also detailed an incident in which a female teacher organized a meeting of selected female faculty members, suggesting that the women vote only for females in the upcoming election for AdCom, which had been reinstated. When approached, she justified the meeting by stating that men have been doing the same thing for years. 

In 1991, to alleviate concerns about ballot stuffing in preliminary rounds, Student Council did not ratify proposals to set a quorum, which would invalidate the presidential election if a minimum level of voter attendance was not fulfilled. 

In 1992, however, The Phillipian editorialized about lack of student enthusiasm for the Student Council elections. The editorial cited the previous Spring’s elections, when make-believe candidate “Chewbacca” received a substantial number of student votes, as evidence that the students “deemed the three candidates incapable of exceptional representation.”

That same year, gender-related debates ensued after Rebekah Lewis ’92 criticized lack of females on The Phillipian and WPAA boards in a Letter to the Editor on March 6. WPAA responded that “the decision process was not a sexist one. The problem… lies more deeply embedded in our community.” In an article titled “Female Apathy vs. Male Oppression” on March 10, John Udell ’92 and Colm Gallagher ’92 asserted that males held more board positions than females because of the “‘dominant male idea” in the society, compelling females to “subservient roles.” 

A poll of the student body in the same 1992 issue of The Phillipian showed that 70 percent of males surveyed believed men and women are treated equally on campus, compared with only 46 percent of female students surveyed. 

In 2001, faculty and Students discussed lack of females in leadership across campus according to Phillipian article on February 27, titled: “Twenty-Six Years After Merger, Gender Relations Still Tenuous.” In response, the 2001 Student Council “pushed the idea of splitting the class representative roles so that there was one male and one female,” said Joe Maliekel ’01, former School President. The proposal was not passed. 

Faced with a similar proposal in 2002, Cluster Council voted down a gender-split amendment requiring an equal number of male and female positions. The Phillipian published an article which found that the gender imbalance in Student Council is less prevalent at similar boarding schools.