Community Engagement Lottery System Aims for Renewed Equality

Since 2020, the Andover Office of Community Engagement (OCE) has run off a chance-based lottery system for selecting students to participate in community engagement programs. On Wednesday, November 30, the OCE opened its sign-up lottery for the winter term. While the system aims to promote equality in the selection process, some students have raised concerns about the application and fairness of the system. 

The system consists of a sign-up form to select the program that students are interested in. 

Zadia Rutty-Turner ’23 participated in a community engagement program through the lottery system after two unsuccessful lotteries. She expressed concern that the blind equality of the system could negatively impact upperclassmen trying to participate. 

“I wouldn’t necessarily say the system is equitable, just because as students get older, here, they have less time to have other opportunities to try again for community engagement. I do know that there are a lot of younger students that get a community engagement that Seniors and Uppers have really wanted for a long time, which I get in terms of fairness, it’s random, whoever gets it is just who gets it, but it is just kind of difficult knowing that those younger students could try again later when there are older students that just don’t have that opportunity,” said Rutty-Turner. 

Monique Cueto-Potts, the Director of the OCE, noted how the system had changed multiple times in the past 11 years under her supervision. Cueto-Potts drives for accessibility with the lottery system that chooses candidates without personal biases. 

“When I came into the role 11 years ago, students signed up by filling out little pieces of paper. They would write down the programs that they wanted to be in, and then the community engagement coordinators selected who they wanted in their programs. I really did not agree with that system, though I let it play out for a year because that was a system that was in place before I started, so I just wanted to see how it played out. We had kids who said to us that it felt like it was very cliquish, that only certain friend groups were being selected to do community engagement, and that was really not the vibe that we wanted. We wanted it to be accessible to as many kids as possible, regardless of who their friends were or if they knew a community engagement coordinator,” said Cueto-Potts. 

Cueto-Potts continued, “We then moved to a system where it was first-come, first-serve, but we had slots available for each lunch period. So let’s just say that there were six kids in a program; we’d only have two slots available for kids in fourth-period lunch to come to sign up, two slots for fifth-period kids, and then two slots for sixth-period lunch, and so that felt a little bit fairer. But it still was an issue because if you had a class super close to where we were doing sign-ups you were able to get there more quickly than if you had a class like in [Gelb Science Center], and you’re coming all the way from Gelb to Kemper, something like that.”

Cindy Yang ’26 participated in a children’s after school engagement program during the Fall Term. They believed that the lottery system is convenient and a positive change.

“It was pretty easy to manage. It was just the Google Form, and then you could fill out what you wanted to do. And then since my project was a self-scheduling thing, I like to put in what times I was available, and then they told me when I’d be going. I don’t know how many people are actually trying to do community engagement things, but if they aren’t going to be able to accommodate everyone, then I feel like this is the fairest way that they can do it,” said Yang. 

Michelle Yao ’23, coordinator of YDO Chinese, a Chinese language program catered to primary school students, echoed Yang in that the lottery system is the fairest way for the community despite some shortcomings. 

“I think, ultimately, what we want is to have as many students have access to community engagement as possible in the areas that they’re interested in, and a lottery, while it’s not a perfect system, I think it’s the system that achieves that most realistically, with our current circumstances considering the pandemic and the limited amount of offered programs and slots for participants,” said Yao.

Editor’s Note: Michelle Yao is a Multilingual Editor for The Phillipian.