What We Do When Our Backbone Starts Breaking

Prefects and Proctors serve as the backbone of dorm life. Often the primary support systems students turn to for problems big or small, they are the first faces we meet when we step into our dorms, and they are an invaluable resource on campus. However, with a combination of Upper and Senior year stressors, a lack of support systems, and the emotional labor they perform, it is no shock that the image of the“model prefect/proctor” Andover seeks to select as student leaders reveals itself as a mirage rather quickly. The often unattainable expectations placed on these student leaders put students’ sustainable well-being at risk—both prefects/proctors and their prefectees/proctorees alike.

Prefects and Proctors face a particular issue—they are expected to balance their academics, health, and well-being while adequately supporting the students under their care, as many students have expressed, often without adequate adult support. Current systems in place to support prefects/proctors fall short, leaving student leaders stranded with no fail safe to protect them. Prefect/Proctor personal time, for instance, is not extensive enough to offer students support that is substantial enough to help them. Smaller privileges, such as in-room fridges, also seem to have tapered in recent years. Prefects and Proctors are chosen for being mature, responsible, “standard bearing” students. If the Academy trusts Prefects/Proctors with the well-being of their younger students, they should also trust them with supports, privileges, and flexibilities that promote their own health.

Moreover, the intensity of situations prefects and proctors take on can be immensely taxing. And Andover, in turn, does not provide enough space for prefects and proctors to process those situations as well. It is unrealistic and unfair for the Academy to expect a student to take on such an enormous responsibility. And while we could argue that the student applied in the first place and should have evaluated the position beforehand, it is also essential to acknowledge that most upperclassmen are still teenagers (16-18 yrs old). Expecting every prefect/proctor to know what they are going into and understand how to handle situations such as substance abuse or mental health crises properly is irresponsible and irrational, especially with insufficient leadership training workshops.

This is not to suggest that students should not approach their prefects when they have a problem—in fact, prefects/proctors, as students themselves, are likely the most equipped to handle student issues—but to point out the flaws in the systems that encourage prefects and proctors to act as a student’s primary resource for personal/emotional support. Indeed, the school does not compensate and hardly acknowledges the labor prefects and proctors are performing, often on their behalf. With broader support systems at Andover, such as Sykes Counseling and the Academic Skills Center (ACS) being overwhelmed, prefects and proctors often experience little out-of-dorm support.

Most of all, prefects and proctors are expected to be “standard bearers,” a vague term that promotes an unrealistic ideal as the norm. Students on campus, but especially prefects and proctors, are pressured to live not always the values of their jobs, but always the images of them. And because the position of prefect or proctor is so heavily dependent on the person themselves as “adequate,” if a prefect/proctor does not live up to the almost impossible standard they are meant to bear, it is easily read as a personal failure. Students want someone they can relate and connect to, not someone who seems effortless in their academics, social life, and cocurriculars. They want real connection, not a perfunctory relationship to an ideal. It’s time our support systems, trainings, and applications for prefects and proctors reflected that.

This editorial represents the views of The Phillipian, Vol. CXLV.