To be completely honest, Groton may not seem like the all-inclusive school presented during tours once new students begin their school life here. The so-called “unwritten rules” that do not appear in the Guide to Groton are often more ridiculous than our school’s dress code. From the library being off-limits for the Lower Schoolers to the mailroom being an unwelcoming zone of sheer awkwardness, Groton’s integration of students can seriously be questioned.
However, Groton is beginning to change. Since last spring, students and faculty have been continuously discussing how to make the school a more welcoming environment for all the members of our community. Under the leadership of our new headmaster, Temba Maqubela, our Circle is growing tighter than ever. One of the major changes made this school year is inviting Lower Schoolers to work as employees at the student-run cafés, Dory’s and Scudders.
In an interview with Bobby Min, a Dory’s head, he said that this change was initiated because the prefects felt that the Lower Schoolers should have a place to get food from and socialize. He also added that the change would benefit Dory’s financially, since the number of target customers would double. Currently, there is a Third Form shift once a week from seven to eight, run by John Cecil, Rand Hough, and Ryan Carr.
John Cecil said that opening the student-run cafés to Lower Schoolers was “a good idea because it would erase the thought of Dory’s and Scudders being ‘Senior Zones.’” He also said that he was confident that the two facilities would become increasingly accessible to Lower Schoolers in the near future.
It is no doubt a change for the better, since the effects of the school’s emphasis on inclusion will actually be felt instead of perpetuating such a contradiction.. However, I doubt whether it will bring about a drastic change in bridging relationships between Upper and Lower Schoolers. Of course, the fact that your peers are on a shift rather than a few intimidating Seniors may make the place more welcoming, but I believe that the outcomes of this transition cannot be felt overnight, and that we will need time to discover whether these problems have been fixed.
Practically speaking, Dory’s and Scudders are too far from Brooks House to be bustling with Lower Schoolers. After a tiring day of work, it is most likely that laziness will convince the average Lower Schooler to use the vending machine conveniently located in the basement of Brooks House, rather than to trek to the Student Center. Furthermore, Lower Schoolers have too many time restrictions which make it difficult to hang out at these places as well. With eight o’clock study hall immediately followed by check-in and lights-out, they have very limited time to make food at Dory’s and Scudders.
But the harder problem to overcome is the notion built into the student body that Dory’s and Scudders are not places for Lower-Schoolers to hang out.. Perhaps the Upper Schoolers will become defensive about their “territory” and the “intruding” Lower Schoolers, but the more likely consequence is that the Lowers Schoolers themselves will choose not to visit these student-run cafés in the first place, fearing that they will be showered with glares and weird looks from Upper Schoolers.
Therefore, in order for the efforts to create a more accepting environment in student cafés to succeed, many changes in attitude of both the Upper and lower Schoolers are needed. The effects of the change may not appear immediately, but nevertheless, this is a change that strengthens Groton’s message of inclusion: anyone can flip burgers if they wish to do so.