As the term comes to a close, nearly every student on campus has an idea of the positions they’ll hold next year. For some of us, that means serving as Co-Presidents, Proctors, Prefects, Captains, club heads, or EBI Seniors. But for others, that means dealing with a rejection from a position they have been hoping for since they were Juniors.
This frustration is often exacerbated by a so-called “position culture” on campus, in which holding titles or leadership roles can almost feel like a marker of one’s self-worth. This culture is reflected in the ways underclassmen often glorify upperclassmen, especially those who are particularly involved on campus (think: “She’s my idol,” or, “How does he do it all?”). In attempts to mimic our idols, we often strive for these traditional and tangible measures of success, with a particular emphasis on extracurricular achievements, athletic accolades, and academic standing. Yet, we often forget there are ways to contribute to the Andover community outside of a traditional “leadership” lens of success.
Being a great friend, a supportive classmate, a thoughtful dorm-mate, or a smiling face on the path won’t garner you a shiny new leadership position. In an ideal world, we shouldn’t need recognition or titles to validate our contribution to this campus, and a lack of a leadership position shouldn’t mean the end of our dedication to a specific activity. We should feel incentivized to foster a positive environment in the dorm, regardless of whether we are a proctor or not. We should strive to be leaders on the field regardless of whether or not we can call ourselves captains. But in a school culture charged with the stigma of achievement, it can be difficult to ignore the titles that we have been conditioned to seek out.
It’s not our fault that leadership is so narrowly defined at Andover, and not our fault, either, that we continue to glorify the impactful students that came before us. We’re part of larger institutions that claim to be partial meritocracies; supposed meritocracies that often reduce us to bullet lists of achievements. It’s up to us, though, to affirm the members of our community that have found means of fulfillment through nontraditional means, and up to us to attempt to find meaning in ourselves beyond the Andover framework and the arbitrary leadership labels we’re assigned.
Maybe you’re a proctor. Maybe you’re a really good listener. Maybe you’re a peer tutor. Maybe you’re really helpful to someone struggling in your math class. Maybe you have a leadership position on this campus. Maybe you don’t. It shouldn’t particularly matter. We shouldn’t be thinking about what leadership roles we want– we should be thinking about what kind of people we want to be.