Last Friday, Andover students received an email about an upcoming forum to discuss the “potential discontinuation” of personal time for the coming school year. This email came as a negative surprise to the student body—within the week, a change.org petition aiming to demonstrate student opposition garnered almost 300 signatures, and comments about administrative distance from student interests re-entered casual conversation on campus.
But amidst all the conversations, debates, and memes following a proposed discussion about the merits of keeping personal time, it feels as though we’ve lost track of a central question: why are we so attached to personal time?
The fact that we live on campus can make school feel inescapable at times. During the week, many hours are spent doing homework, playing sports, or participating in clubs. Endless commitments and constant interaction with peers during meals and in the dorm means that it can be nearly impossible to step away from school and everything that comes along with it socially, academically, and athletically.
Your whole life becomes intertwined with Andover. Anything you do unrelated to school—being with old friends or family, engaging at all with the world outside of Andover—is an exception, requiring day excuses, overnight forms, or checking in with your teachers and house counselor beforehand.
But no student’s life is contained entirely within Andover. The role of personal time is to give students an opportunity to break out of this otherwise all-enclosing campus. For everything from athletic events and other extracurricular programs to family emergencies, students are told to take personal time for the classes that they miss.
Personal time legitimizes that students have lives and commitments beyond the school, that they need to take care of themselves beyond the school trying to take care of them. Cuts have a negative connotation that personal time doesn’t; you’re not supposed to cut classes, and if you accumulate cuts, you face restriction and disciplinary action. Tolerance in the cut policy should be used for for accidental sleep-ins or last-minute emergencies, not planned. Personal time allows students to practice wellness without breaking the rules.
Furthermore, many students feel that taking away personal time is counteractive in fostering a positive community on campus. The administration often emphasizes mental health and wellness, but without personal time, many students feel that they don’t have the space to take time for themselves.
Perhaps one solution would be allowing more cuts. After reducing the number of cuts from four to two in recent years, taking away personal time as well would be excessive. Another solution would be to allow Dean’s Excuses to be more accessible. In the past, students have had to use their personal time to attend funerals, sports tournaments, or other necessary events. If circumstances like this could be easily excused by the Cluster Deans, perhaps personal time would be less important.
As boarders, we don’t have sick or mental health days that would be granted to us by our parents. In order to learn to take care of ourselves, we have to be given the opportunity to take a break when we need to. Personal time is the only time students are given for ourselves, and taking away two 45-minute periods worth of personal time per term is not worth sacrificing the wellbeing, comfort, and happiness of students.