Dancing to good music, taking pictures with friends, getting trampled in a sweaty mosh pit: all normal things found at an Andover dance. For many new students, the dance last weekend was the first opportunity to engage in a school-wide social event. The dance, however, had a segregation uncommon in our community: Juniors congregated in the Underwood Room while Lowers, Uppers and Seniors filled Borden Gym. The two dances were divided by grade for the third year in a row.
Of course, the reasoning behind the grade separation at dances is valid and convincing. Countless Andover students have spoken out about the challenge of safely integrating Juniors with upperclassmen, who have in past years been thought to have intimidated younger students. Despite this, the grade segregation only perpetuates the notions that older students have uncontrollable sexual urges and will take advantage of younger students and that underclassmen on campus are incapable of making their own decisions.
Since the dances were first divided three years ago, awareness of consent, coercion and sexual assault has certainly increased. More students and faculty have recognized the imbalance of sexual and social power between Juniors and upperclassmen. But now, it is time for us to recognize the divide as only a temporary measure and not an actual solution. Segregating the dances fails to truly address and dismantle the potentially unhealthy power dynamic between older and younger students.
Andover must work to educate older students on how to be responsible leaders who model healthy relationships, consent and safe sexual behavior on campus. While Proctors and Prefects do go through extensive training, the burden of fighting social and sexual pressure still too often falls on younger students themselves.
We still, of course, need to be teaching our new students about proper consent and the policy of “yes means yes.” But besides telling Juniors and new students that it is okay to abstain from campus hookup culture, we should also be critiquing the source of sexual pressure, which often originates from older students. Upperclassmen must acknowledge their social clout and realize the consequences of their social and sexual power.
As stated in The Phillipian’s editorial in the September 18 issue, “Incoming students do not know what ‘normal’ is at Andover – they learn how to behave from the example that returning students set.” Returning students must be responsible for setting an example that recognizes and addresses sexual and social pressure on campus. The example set for the younger students now will determine the state of Andover’s community for years to come.