Students and Faculty Discuss Personal Time During Community Forum

D. Owyang/The Phillipian

During the forum, students and faculty discussed plans for personal time with the new schedule for the 2019-2020 school year. Pictured above are Eamon Garrity-Rokous ’20 and Sheena Hilton ’05, Flagstaff Cluster Dean.

Personal time has existed for years as a way for students to excuse themselves from classes and athletics. Last Friday, April 26, students received an email about its possible discontinuation and an upcoming forum for students and faculty to discuss alternatives. Student Council held this forum in the Underwood Room on Wednesday from 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Along with Rajesh Mundra, Associate Dean of Studies and Residential Life, 2018-2019 Student Body Co-Presidents Keely Aouga ’19 and Nick Demetroulakos ’19 and 2019-2020 Student Co-President-Elects Sebastian Romero ’20 and Shahinda Bahnasy ’20 opened the forum. The pairs set ground rules for constructive discussion and reiterated Blue Book policies on personal time.

“I think one of the things that really stood out to me was how much of a disparity there was between the knowledge that each of us had surrounding personal time. One of the things that we discussed as a group and that I talked about with Jennifer Elliott, [Assistant Head of School for Residential Life and Dean of Students], Sheena Hilton [Flagstaff Cluster Dean], and the other deans, was that taking away personal time isn’t necessarily the option, but rather, reeducating on what its purpose is would be more beneficial to the greater Andover community,” said Romero in an interview with The Phillipian.

Romero continued, “As it stands now, not a lot of students know that there are resources in [the Rebecca M. Sykes Wellness Center], the deans, and other means of getting excused while seeking help and support. In reality, that’s a detriment to our students because the school has these systems in place for our well-being.”

Students and faculty offered different solutions in the discussion, such as making the 24-hour rule more lenient, increasing the number of allowed cuts, and enforcing greater consistency among teachers.

Groups then discussed personal experiences regarding personal time, as well as plans for the future given the new schedule for the 2019-2020 School Year. Bahnasy herself had actually used personal time improperly before, unaware of the rules in the Blue Book regarding it.

“I used it to elongate a long weekend for transportation purposes. Luckily [Martha] Fenton, [West Quad North Cluster Dean], explained to me right after that that’s not what I’m supposed to use it for. I think that was a really good learning experience, but I don’t think that happens all the time. Students often use it for the wrong reasons because faculty aren’t obligated to ask you why you’re using personal time, they have no way of correcting you or teaching you about its actual purposes,” said Bahnasy.

Many students, like Lucy Kisova ’20, are against the proposed change. According to Kisova, personal time is a great way for students to take a break from classes without the guilt of a cut or possible discomfort of going to Sykes.

“One of the main faculty points is that there are other options for taking time off of classes, but there are problems with some of them, such as [that] not everyone can take time for College Counseling or not everyone has doctor or dental appointments…Personal time is just a way to take time off for whatever reason you may need to and it’s an all-encompassing thing that’s easy to take,” said Kisova.

Bahnasy echoed Kisova’s sentiments by noting that personal time benefits students’ health and well-being on campus.

“Although there are a lot of times that students misuse personal time, I think that its positive uses outweigh its negative uses. Therefore, we should take into account how beneficial it is for those students. Also, I think that it’s important to think about alternatives as opposed to discontinuing personal time,” said Bahnasy.

Despite the engagement, Romero was disappointed by the lack of students who attended the forum, and believes it to be reflective of the thought that the faculty does not care about students’ opinions.

“If we want to keep personal time and make effective change, we have to be willing to work with the faculty. We cannot close off our minds and think this is already a foregone conclusion when in reality, the faculty have come to listen to us and they want to hear our opinions. The discussion went fantastically, but if we don’t have enough people here to show that we actually care about this, then the faculty will vote against it because they’ll think students don’t really care about it,” said Romero.

Arnav Bhakta ’22 agreed with Romero’s concern for the lack of students at the forum. He appreciated the discussion between students and faculty and hopes more conversations can take place in the future.

“This forum marks a time on our campus where students and teachers could come together to discuss a topic that affects both parties. At our school, there aren’t many opportunities for students and teachers to talk about their common issues, but through events like the forum, we could make this a more regular occurrence. Additionally, I think it’s important that we talk about an issue that impacts everyone at this school and we discuss it with both the students and teachers so that everyone is happy with the outcome,” said Bhakta.

Editor’s Note: Shahinda Bahnasy is a Photo Editor for The Phillipian.