Let the Juniors Join

The past two issues of The Phillipian have featured Commentary spreads on being a minority at Andover, the first dealing with the experiences of black and Latino students, the second with that of Asian and Asian-American students. The black and Latino spread has already inspired a movement, “More Than Just a Number,” as well as a photo campaign, “I, Too, Am Andover” (inspired by Havard University’s “I, Too, Am Harvard”). What these movements are lacking, however, is participation from younger students. Each of the two Phillipian spreads was centered on a “Letter to the Editor” by the spread’s coordinators. Neither was signed or co-signed by Juniors, and only the letter by Asian and Asian-American authors included Lowers as signatories. As a student who identifies as black, I was not aware that there was even going to be a spread until it appeared in The Phillipian, and I am sure that many other young black and Latino students had a similar experience. Although we share a similar background, as younger students we did not have a chance to share our stories. This lack of inclusion of younger students worries me. After all, it seems fundamentally wrong for a group of students united by a common identity to initiate a campus-wide discussion about that very identity without the input of all who are interested in participating. I spoke to Matt Simon ’14, a part of the “More Than Just a Number” movement, about my concerns. Simon described how the upperclassmen simply do not want to overwhelm younger students by asking them to contribute; underclassmen still have a lot more to learn and a lot more of Andover to experience. Younger students also may not have the tools required to lead discussions on such a sensitive topic as race, he continued. Simon’s point is certainly valid. Underclassmen, by nature of the fact that they have not attended Andover for as long as most upperclassmen, are not as familiar with Andover’s social atmosphere and also may not be as aware of things like the microaggressions discussed in the Phillipian spread. Nonetheless, if these movements do not actively include younger students, what was once a collaborative effort to promote discussion and awareness will no longer have the momentum to continue. If upperclassmen do not prepare underclassmen to lead, what will happen when they are gone? Calling for administrative and faculty involvement is not the solution in this case; this movement is the result of pure student initiative, and to involve adults would likely take away much of its relevance and potency. Faculty, however, can encourage and invite younger students who would like to be included to attend and speak up at meetings and forums. Faculty can even host their own discussion groups for their younger students, if they feel there is interest. Ultimately, it is up to the leaders of the movements to decided whether or not to include younger students. They must realize, however, that in not including them, they are determining whether they will be a temporary outcry on campus or an inclusive, diverse and ongoing initiative.