Balancing the Scales: Athletics or Arts?

For many a musician, artist, or actor at Andover, the conversation around resources available to athletes versus artists is a common one. From discussions over Music and Theatre Protected time (such as in our February 18 Editorial, “Protect Protected Time”), to jokes over Graves’ facilities compared to those of Snyder, it’s a quiet but familiar sentiment among students that at Andover, sports seem more valued than arts. Indeed, according to the 2022 State of the Academy (SOTA), 80 percent of students who do not play a varsity sport believe that Andover prioritizes athletics compared to the arts. In this Editorial, we hope to examine why, and highlight areas of improvement in recognizing the arts’ significance at Andover.

The first subject of contention in this conversation tends to be scheduling. In particular, students have claimed that many of their commitments do not respect music and theatre protected time. Clubs, for instance, commonly hold meetings during protected time, and Wednesday training for students leaders runs from 6:45-8:00p.m., right through Theatre protected time from 6:00-8:00p.m.

Moreover, protected time for music runs for an hour and a half two times a week, and Theatre protected time amounts to only two hours a week, scheduled on Wednesdays. These hours serve as a stark contrast to Sports hours, where sports are both mandatory and typically meet at least four times a week (yes, even LIFE sports). There is also a common social understanding to leave our three to five sports block untouched when it comes to scheduling. Our class schedule, even, accommodates sports— our Wednesday afternoons are reserved for athletes participating in interscholastic games (as well as for community engagement programming). This luxury is not given to the arts, with rehearsal and performance times squeezed into the tight crooks of student schedules. Though not everyone participates in the arts, the same time and accommodation should be provided for student artists.

In addition, students also cite Andover’s physical resources as a region where arts appear deprioritized. Students, for instance, only have access to Elson if currently enrolled in an Art class. Graves Hall’s practice rooms are a common source of jokes among students, from the constantly-occupied practice rooms and out-of-tune pianos to quite literally being “underground” when practicing an instrument. While a new music building is currently under construction, and Tang theater underwent a renovation only four years ago, the commitment of physical resources to athletics over the arts is often astounding. For instance, while athletes enjoy the Borden Memorial Gym, the Snyder Center, the new Pan-Athletic Center, two ice rinks, an outdoor track, Phelps Stadium, among countless others, artists have Graves, Elson, a few rooms in the Chapel basement, and pockets of George Washington Hall (GW) for their craft.

We acknowledge, however, that this is a nuanced discussion. The comparison between sports and arts is not always a fair one, an it is unclear if sports actually receive more funding or if it simply appears that way. Athletics funding, for instance, mainly shows itself in new buildings and equipment— all highly visible and immediate. But Arts funding is subtler. In theatre, for instance, funding may go towards getting the rights to perform a piece or maintaining expensive stage tech systems. In music, funding may go towards purchasing scores or maintaining instruments, and in art, funds may be allocated for classroom art materials.

We are extraordinarily privileged to have access to the resources already in place at Andover, and we appreciate the resources we do have. However, for artists, the prioritization of sports over the arts, both at Andover and in our broader culture, may serve as a constant suggestion that their crafts are not as highly valued at our school. We hope that the issues raised in this article will be addressed to affirm the place of the Arts, not just at Andover, but to our society at large.

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