Opening Communication

In a recent survey, a sizeable majority of the Andover faculty voted in favor of more stringent regulations regarding room visitation. It appears that after a year filled with discussions about the school’s sometimes malignant “hook-up culture,” the faculty have made their choice as to how to respond to such issues. Like many other students in the Andover community, as well as a number of alumni, I am frustrated by this decision, though perhaps for different reasons than my peers. I will readily admit that in some ways I am not cognizant of the full story. I cannot say with absolute certainty that there have not been incidents in which students were somehow hurt by a parietal or that this measure will do more harm than good. What I do know is that this measure contradicts a characteristic of the school that in my opinion makes Andover unique among its competitors. Andover is known as a school that trusts its students.

Despite complaints that Andover often restricts the social lives of its students, it is important to consider the similar policies enacted at other schools. According to Exeter’s online “E Book,” students may “visit in one another’s rooms, with the door half-way open and the lights on.” Deerfield requires the door only be ajar, but only allows room visitation on Fridays and Saturdays according to the Deerfield website. Both schools require their students to adhere to dress codes, and Deerfield requires that all students pause simultaneously to say grace before beginning to eat dinner. It seems that Andover not only sets itself apart through, but also benefits from, the freedom it allows its students. This freedom is a mark of respect that should be taken with responsibility.

I believe it is thanks to this respect that students are able to communicate so well with faculty. For example, I spoke to many teachers who were moved by the words of students speaking out against racism at a recent faculty conference. It is worth noting that this respect is contingent upon the actions of the students. Therefore, Andover students have a greater responsibility to earn the trust of the faculty. It is hardly a one way street.

The decisions that the faculty and administration recently passed are one step in undermining this delicate balance of trust and respect. They reaffirm the notion that the students are, first and foremost, sheep to be regulated, and secondly people to be listened to. On the other hand, it is critical to recognize that the administration most likely has the students’ best interests at heart, even if it takes inefficient actions like these new parietal rules to protect them. And no matter how unjust the recent changes may seem, the truth of the matter is that no student can be completely certain that they know the full story. If certain students were hurt in some way, the administration may have had a knee jerk reaction even if the numbers of initially affected students were proportionately small.

The Andover community is currently in a somewhat precarious situation. As long as lines of communication remain open between students and adults, however, the balance of trust will hopefully remain stable. Even if the faculty decide to retain their recent decisions permanently or make other controversial decisions in the future, the very least that the students deserve is an understanding as to why such choices were made. Likewise, the faculty deserve students who uphold the promises made when they accepted Andover’s offer of admission: trust that the faculty have honorable intentions and a willingness to earn trust from the faculty. Only through such an agreement can the Andover community stay strong.