Taking the Night Seriously

Marching from the steps of Samuel Phillips Hall, along the Vista, and into Abbot Campus, about 200 members of the Andover community chanted, “It’s on us.” We, the students and faculty, gathered together last Thursday for Andover’s first ever Take Back the Night to show our support for all those affected by sexual violence. We represented members of the Andover community who were willing to stand against such heinous acts. However, 200 people rallying against sexual violence is not enough.

To me, the cause that Take Back the Night stands for is indisputable and straightforward. Any form of sexual assault or sexual harassment cannot be tolerated, whether it be on or off campus. The fact that only a small portion of the school chose to come together in solidarity for such an important and relevant issue is very disappointing.

While there will never be a night when every single student and faculty member on campus will have the time to rally together for an event like this one, Take Back the Night was conveniently held, at Andover and nine other schools, the night before the long Non Sibi Weekend. No homework was due the next day, and most students were free from extracurricular commitments for the night. Although I am sure there are various explanations as to why some members of campus did not attend the march, I personally feel that such low participation is reflective of the fact that some Andover students simply did not care.

Some students’ disinterest in issues that don’t directly pertain to them is prominent and extremely detrimental to our campus culture. Their lack of participation in events that pertain to the struggles of other students on campus is concerning. When I see students who do not bother to make an effort to attend programming during the weekends or on days when they have a smaller workload, it becomes clear to me that this apathy is prominent. This is greatly disconcerting. The apathy that currently plagues the student body creates a less inclusive and empathic community, causing students to ignore meaningful discussions. In fact, it is the exact opposite of Andover’s Non Sibi motto.

Take Back the Night stood for something important. Wanting to put an end to sexual assault and harassment is a justified and admirable objective. This goal, however, cannot be achieved if students continue to be apathetic.

While I usually disagree with mandatory participation, for cases such as Take Back the Night – in which a great number of students who can attend such purposeful programs choose not to – call for serious action by the administration. Community gatherings such as Take Back the Night should be held to the same degree of importance as a typical AllSchool Meeting, with mandatory attendance. Forums and discussions regarding aspects of people’s identity are extremely important and must be given a more prominent platform in the community to impact more students.

Change, however, must also come from Andover students themselves. We must work toward being more sympathetic and interested in the people that surround us. While Take Back the Night should have been seen as a manifestation of Andover’s “smart with heart” or Non Sibi motto, the lack of adequate participation in this event displayed how much work our student body needs to do in order to create a truly kind campus culture. Last Thursday demonstrated how Andover’s progressive mindset is not in line with the passivity, and apathy, in the hearts of some community members. This cannot continue to be the case.