Letters to the Editor

Letter to the Editor

To the Editor:

It is rare that Andover students are given the chance to write without guidelines, and it is even more unusual that they may present their work to the entire community. This freedom was precisely the beauty of the Means Essay; promptless, it diverges from the constant onslaught of graded assignments and celebrates idiosyncrasies. It allows students to write — and think — for themselves. In an environment frequently dictated by resumés and test scores, students are fed questions to answer and hoops to jump through. Each year, the Means Essay provides a challenge and an opportunity in its absence of a prompt.

But this year is different. In honor of 40 years of coeducation at Andover, the Means Essay entries must pertain to gender. This not only ignores the basis of the Means Essay as an outlet for limitless creative expression, but also disregards the diversity of experience that is truly the foundation of the Andover community. It roots our experiences as musicians, athletes and writers firmly within the context of gender. Limiting the conversation exclusively to gender is counter-intuitive to the spirit of coeducation, which we believe should be one of inclusivity and unrestricted celebration of all kinds of diversity.

Experiences recalled in past years ranged from the quotidian to the profound. The story of the girl who struggled with a life-threatening brain infection. The experiences of the girl with color-auditory synesthesia. The heartbreakingly sweet letter of an older sister to her brother. These are the voices of past finalists that would have been silenced. Limiting essays to stories about gender changes the focus of the Means Essay completely—rather than highlighting how we are different, the new prompt tries to artificially impose significance on a single theme that may not carry equal importance for all students.

To some, gender is a large part of their lives. To others, it simply isn’t and never has been. Limiting the competition’s focus to gender-related topics effectively silences those on campus that find the prompt uninspiring and even not applicable.

Coeducation is a milestone that deserves to be celebrated, but it is inappropriate to alter the Means Essay to accomplish that. Perhaps it would be better to have a separate competition for essays specifically about gender. If one hopes to honor the tradition of coeducation, we believe the right way to do that would be to give the topic its own platform and leave the Means Essay as an open forum.

The Means Essay finalists should be chosen because they have produced unique essays that speak to who they are, not because their story fits a prompt chosen for them. We urge the English Department to reconsider limiting the Means Essay voices in this manner. The point of the prize is to celebrate what is most poignant and evocative from the perspective of the writer. One should not have to fit their story within the confines of a prompt.

Sydney Adams ’14

Djavaneh Bierwirth ’14


Luz Lopez ’12
Khalil Blassingame ’12
Lauren Howard ’12
Austin Teece ’12
Sirus Han ’13
Garrick Gu ’13
Julia Lord ’13
Vijay Rajkumar ’13
Andries Feder ’13
Anna Stacy ’13
Jay Reader ’13
Stephanie Kim ’13
Annika Neklason ’13
Hemang Kaul ‘13
Aly Wayne ’14
Anika Kim ’14
Liz Rao ’14
Mayze Teitler ‘14
Rebecca Cheng ’14
Graham Johns ‘14
Chase Gottlich ’14
Janani Hariharan ’14
Audrey Leduc ‘14
Lily Rockefeller ’14
Jordan Boudreau ’14
Iman Masmoudi ’14
Daniel Kim ‘14
Jerry Li ’14
Olivia Cabral ‘14
Alexia Rauen ‘14
Doris Nyamwaya ‘14
Alex Anderlik ’14
Campbell Howe ’14
Claire Carroll ’14
Alec Kingston ’14
Sabrina Rivers ’14
Harvey Wu ’14
Isabel Bolo ’14
Kate Wincek ’14
Zach Bamford ’14
Joey Salvo ’14
Katherine Vega ‘14
Charles Van Eijk ’14
Harry Wright ’14
Anthony D’Ambrosio ’14
James Jung ’14
Hannah Sorkin ’14
Luke Stidham ’14
James Heaney ‘14
Julia Kim ’14
Jonathan Arone ’14
Meghana Jayam ’14
Graham Johns ’14
Katherine Krabek ’14
Poonam Kamdar ’14
Josiah Legaspi ‘14
Brian Picarillo ‘14
Johnny Chacon ‘14
Nolan Crawford ‘15
Amanda Krakauer ’15
Cem Vardar ‘15
Henry Curtis ’15
Schuyler Hazard ’15
Tejasv Arya ’15
Katie Santoro ’15
Caroline Hoskins ’15
Anastasia Prokhorenko ’15
Tyler Tsay ’15
Thomas Johst ’15
John Little ’15
Roshan Mathy ’15
Rocco Amorosso ‘15
Avery Jonas ’16
Alessa Cross ’16
Adrienne Allen ‘16
Claire Tao ‘16
Jennifer Kim ‘16
Carra Wu ’17