To the Editor:

A powerful silence hangs over our student body. This silence pervades our halls, our dorms and our classrooms, and it affects the very nature of leadership among our students.

This letter is meant to break that silence, once and for all.    

Student Council recently made a significant structural change by implementing the new co­presidential system. There are many explanations for this change, but one of the primary factors was the staggering gender imbalance in the student leadership of the past 40 years.    

This gender inequity is a critical issue we face as a student body. Andover students like to subscribe to the myth that we are the best, the brightest and the most forward thinking students in the world. The past four decades, however, evidence the shortcomings in our beliefs. Having four female school presidents since the 1973 merger of Phillips Academy and Abbot Academy is embarrassing.

What is worse, however, is the casual attitude surrounding this issue. The arguments behind these trends, which include, “Perhaps the students just wanted a male president,” “Andover is a meritocracy—if a girl deserved it, she would win” and, of course, the omnipresent “But there isn’t a gender problem at this school,” are simply ignorant.

Students have not elected female leaders because female candidates have been in short supply. Last year, only two out of the 14 candidates were female. Strong role models create a positive cycle through which young students, male or female, are inspired to become role models themselves. Boys have myriad opportunities to look up to the established, visible—and male—student leaders at this school. Sadly, our current female students lack these public figures. They have not seen a female student body president. In fact, there has not been a female in that office since 2004. Our future leaders of both genders have yet to see a woman lead the Student Council—that fact works to the detriment of boys and girls alike.

Since conversations about the Student Council change focused significantly on gender inequity, we were dismayed that some students running for the most public student role on campus chose not to seize the opportunity to address this issue. For students to take the issue of gender lightly, or worse, to ignore it, will only further exacerbate the problem and ignore the proverbial elephant in our collective room. Candidates should embrace a paradigm shift toward more equal representation in the school’s Student Council.

To the student body: this election season presents us all with an opportunity for immediate change. As younger students begin to assume the responsibilities of every senior class, the future of our Academy must remain a primary concern. We charge you to think critically about the students you will select as representatives. Keep in mind long term consequences—the pair you select could set a precedent and break down any remaining barriers for both boys and girls to run in the future.

Let us truly live up to our forward­thinking ideals. Be empowered in the knowledge that you can be part of something monumental, something bigger than all of us. Make your vote count.

Written by:

MJ Engel ’13, Gabbi Fisher ’13, Samuel L. Green ’13, Maia Hirschler ’13, and Henry Kennelly ’13

Signatories:

Unwana Abasi ’13, Angela Batuure ’13, Meaghan Haugh ’13, Haonan Li ’13, Lucia McGloin ’13, Laz Nyamakazi ’13, and Jing Qu ’13