On Sunday night, Assistant Head of School for Residential Life and Dean of Students Jennifer Elliot sent out an email regarding the planning of the commencement weekend this year to the seniors. Elliot was evidently excited, as she exclaimed “YAHHOOOOO!” in her enthusiastic email. Later, according to The Phillipian, Student Body Co-President Shahinda Bahnasy ’20 confirmed that “[Uppers] will not be allowed at prom, nor will students who do not attend Phillips Academy.” However, the email and the confirmation were made at a poor time with vague relations.
First of all, the email, along with the confirmation, were sent at a very inappropriate time. We should not assume any intentions of the administration, yet it should be noted that the sending time would elicit the least reaction from the student body. Students would be leaving the campus in five days and returning after twenty—how could they regard the issue with the same fervor almost a month later? Students cannot express their concerns by school-wide publications either, since The Phillipian do not publish a print paper at the very last school week of the year. These two restrictions, though they’re not imposed by the administration, seriously hinder the student body’s ability to react to the issue. What else can the students do besides discussing privately and posting on social media? What constructive effort can the students make to bridge, not to widen, this long-lasting gap between the students and the administration?
Besides, the content of the email only vaguely relates to the confirmation made by Bahnasy. The only mention of the non-senior students in the email is the following statement: “As 9th, 10th, and 11th graders depart campus by 12 on Thursday, June 4, our community’s attention will shift entirely to celebrating our seniors’ Commencement Weekend.” One valid interpretation of that statement could be that though non-senior students will leave the campus, they are still allowed to join the prom. In the email, it is not explicitly stated that “[Uppers] will not be allowed at prom.” Furthermore, those students who do not attend Phillips Academy are not mentioned at all, making the decision that bars them from prom even more questionable. Indeed, one can argue that prom is the time, quoting from Dean Elliot, “for our community to celebrate the class of 2020 and allow the seniors to have a festive evening together.” However, making the prom solely for seniors is definitely not the only way to focus on the seniors and to celebrate the class. Therefore, the email only vaguely relates to the statement told by Bhanasy 20’, making the “confirmation” more like an interpretation that needs confirmation.
Since Dean Elliot has not yet commented on her email and the confirmation made by Bhanasy, it is irresponsible to predict the possible intentions of the said changes. Let us better focus the problem on hand: students cannot respond properly to this policy change, which is poorly outlined by the email. It is no longer deniable that our school lacks an effective communication mechanism between the student body and the administration. We should really do something this time. Keep the communications open. Let the administration show their reasons behind the change. Express our concerns through all means possible, and secure them in the future. Until then, do not scream in joy.