A Whole New World

As I arrived on campus, Mr. and Mrs. Maqubela stood in the archway of the Headmaster’s House and waved to my family and me. They approached us and noticed a Tanzanian painting of a zebra, which leaned against the bumper of the car. “Habari gani?” he asked, meaning “what’s the news?” in Swahili. After light conversation, Mr. Maqubela asked me about my summer, and I told him that I studied Arabic in the Middle East. As if on cue, he greeted me again in Arabic. “As-salamu alaykum,” he said. “Wa alaykumu s-salam,” I responded. These phrases translate respectively as “peace be upon you,” and ” unto you peace,” but are equivalent to “hello” in much of the Arab world. His ability to speak and seamlessly transition between different ideas and languages astounded me. In five short minutes, I had already gained a favorable impression of Mr. Maqubela and an understanding of his vision for the school.

Many of us know that this is a year of change. As we welcome our new Headmaster Mr. Maqubela, we must also welcome the changing social climate that inevitably comes with these handovers of leadership. Dory’s and Scudder’s are open to Lower Schoolers, appraisers browse the bookshelves of  the McCormick Library to preen and clear it of unnecessary books, and a host of new faculty has arrived. These changes are for the better, though, and will almost certainly have a lasting effect on Groton School.

The most important change this year is the attitude of the new administration. In his inaugural chapel talk, Mr. Maqubela stated that “celebrating belonging and inclusion” is the theme of this school year. Around the Circle, I have heard more than a few voices saying that this theme would create artificial change. But I, and the majority of students, must disagree with those statements. This new attitude is only a natural evolution of the cultural and social dynamics at Groton School.

The most recent example of this movement towards inclusiveness is the dissolution of the informal, unspoken rule that excluded Lower Schoolers from Scudder’s and Dory’s. While it is yet to be seen if this change will significantly alter the behavior of Lower Schoolers, it wouldn’t hurt to protect their right to buy a burger or toast a bagel. This change serves to make all new students welcome on almost any part of the Circle.

The plans for moving the library are already beginning to take shape. The current space of the McCormick Library is being prepared for transformation into an office space for various school staff. This means that the library will have to be moved to the Hall. In order to condense the size of the current library so that it will be able to fit in the Hall, Mr. Marchand is getting rid of many books. He has enlisted the help of faculty, staff, and outside appraisers to decide which books to keep and which books to remove from circulation. However, this is one of the changes that I cannot completely support. Many Upper School students use the McCormick Library as their primary study location. What further exacerbates this problem is the welcoming of Lower Schoolers into this space. One of the primary motivations for moving the library to the Hall was to make its use more accessible and acceptable for these Lower School students, but younger students have zero need for an academic library. They are not required to write research papers, and they have nice desks, either in the Schoolroom or in their own rooms. We are merely fixing a problem that doesn’t exist.

But our new faculty and staff are fixing problems that do exist. Although it has only been a few weeks since the start of the year, the SAC is hoping to make this year better than ever. Mr. LeRoy, the new faculty head of the Student Activities Committee (SAC), is revamping the traditional weekend at Groton School. Weekend activities are becoming more varied, more structured, greater in number, and more exciting than in years prior. We have already had one great dance, multiple shopping trips, free ice cream, and an all school showing of The Lion King. It truly boosts school morale to have more students happy and content with their weekends. The SAC has certainly pleased me so far and looks as if it will continue to do so throughout the year.

These changes towards inclusiveness are, as a whole, positive. Fewer students are being left out of the Groton experience, and student satisfaction will probably see a net increase across the entire campus because of these changes. While not all the changes are perfect, many seem to possess the essence of true altruism. Like in the popular hymn, righteousness is beginning to roll “like a flowing stream.”

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