Communication is Key

At Hotchkiss, Spirit Week and Taft Day are not just important, but sacred. The campus many of us call home goes through a transformation: hallways become tunnels of school spirit, students express themselves in ways that are anathema during normal weeks, and, regardless of the number of tests or essays due, everyone wears smiles of anticipation. For this one week, students have carefree fun, in a place usually dominated and defined by restrictions. This one week is supposed to see friends and classmates shouting from the rooftops, and yet this year those anticipatory smiles were gone, those cries of passion replaced with clamors of protest.

Students are objecting to an Administration that is increasingly refusing to consult with those impacted by policy changes. What’s worse is that it is forcing some students to take the fall for its decisions. Leading up to Spirit Week, students were given a set of shirts to vote on, so imagine the reaction when students were told that – surprise! – the Taft Day shirt chosen was one not included in the vote. People were rightfully upset. A tradition and history of trust had been violated between the Administration and student body. The Administration didn’t communicate its decision directly. Instead, they used Blue and White heads as proxies to announce the change and forced them to deal with the immediate fallout: on stage, alone, with dozens of students accusing them of betrayal. The Administration didn’t communicate the rationale of the choice to the student body either. They didn’t step in and say, “Don’t blame your classmates! It was our decision and here is why we made it.” They sat back and watched our classmates get booed by dozens of their peers for simply doing following orders. Such behavior is cowardly.

Then there was the change surrounding Psych Cards (also announced by Blue and White). For many students, Psych Cards turn school spirit up to an eleven. Part of the appeal was that students could make their own and, within minutes of finalizing the design, could put them up on the walls. One can imagine the reaction when students were told that that element would be gone. Students could still design their own, but they would have to be submitted and reviewed by Blue and White. Such a policy change was done without consultation with the student body, and it is directly because of that lack of consultation that there has been such discontent. The Administration’s rationale is that in previous years some Psych Cards have been overly vulgar, rude, and harassed members of our community. I will be the first one to admit that is a problem that needs to be addressed, but instead of asking the student body how it could best address it, the Administration told us their decision. End of story.

One might begin to see a pattern here, and I have no doubt Hotchkiss students recognize this problem as one that extends beyond Spirit Week. Before school even started, there was an uproar over the Administration unilaterally deciding to change the rules surrounding inter-dorming. This was done, yet again, without consultation with the student body as a whole or with Stu Fac. The backlash was severe, and students were able to modify the policy by working with faculty members over many weeks, but there was no time left to change the new regulations on Spirit Week. The fallout of all of these decisions has been a loss of trust in and respect for the Administration, and the root cause has been the same. The Administration needs to start consulting with students and communicate its decisions ahead of time, and it needed to start months ago.