The focus of the year is on inclusion, and as such, everyone is on the lookout for exclusion to obliterate. From obliquely classist political cartoons to unfair distribution of parlor cookies, any source of possible exclusion has been callously obliterated, and there’s far more in the works. For a long time, VIth formers have claimed important spaces for themselves; the dining hall, the chapel, and the mailroom all have their designated “senior sections.” In the mailroom, the senior section contains the best couches; in chapel and the dining hall, the senior pews and tables are elevated slightly above everyone else.
To many, this seems like no more than elitist snobbery, a clear example of inequality and exclusion which should be done away with posthaste. In their eyes, very little is more odious than laying claim to the best simply because of superior strength and age. Then, there is the tradition, even more annoying to some, of “6-5-4,” in which VIth formers are allowed to cut those in lower forms in lines of various kinds.
This seems to be the most base and rank form of exploitation-what right have the seniors to cut in line, beyond their age? However, these traditions have a rationale behind them other than “might makes right.” The seniors are afforded these privileges because of the extra pressure they are under and the extra responsibilities they must sustain. Given everything our seniors do for us and the duties we force on them, the respect we demonstrate to VIth formers with these traditions is a small price to pay.
Groton is extremely uncommon in that it requires all seniors to be dorm prefects. In most other private boarding schools, 11th and 12th graders are selected to preside over dormitories, rather than all seniors being obligated to do so. St. Mark’s, for example, chooses those of its students from its junior and senior forms whom dorm heads deem the most responsible and trustworthy. After a long and arduous selection process, they take up the mantle of dorm leaders. This policy is meant to ensure competent and sensible leadership within each dorm.
Groton, meanwhile, takes a very different view on the issue. At Groton, leadership is a fundamental part of our education, and as such, every senior must take on that responsibility. Whether or not they are fully prepared for it at the beginning of the year, they had better learn quickly if they intend to make it to the end. I can’t say for sure which system is better, but it’s clear that we place quite a burden on our VIth formers’ shoulders. Whether they are natural-born leaders or shy, work-oriented recluses, they are forced to resolve dorm conflicts and guide students through the year. For this work alone, they deserve the aforementioned accommodations and more.
However, this is far from the only responsibilities seniors possess. Positions filled exclusively by VIth formers include Chapel prefects, admissions prefects, music prefects, and peer counselors, along with a plethora of other responsibilities. VIth formers fill numerous necessary roles within our community, keeping everything running and ensuring a more positive experience for every student at the school. When you go to chapel in the morning, a senior will mark down that you attended, before you play an instrument at a recital, a senior will announce your name, and when you fall on hard times, a VIth form peer counselor will be there to soothe your nerves and help you resolve your problems. After considering the exhaustive list of duties they perform, any privileges we can afford them are warranted.
Which brings us to the topic of 10-12. This privilege, which allows VIth formers to be outside the dorm for two hours after check-in, has found many critics as a purposeless and perhaps even dangerous policy. Though there are many arguments against it, which I may address all of in another article, I would like to refute one: the idea that ten to twelve is an elitist institution. Whatever rationale the administration finally finds to shut down 10-12, it should not attempt to assert that it is an exclusive or unfair policy. When you take into account the Sisyphean duties our seniors endure, this freedom is clearly completely deserved.
A commonly quoted passage from the Bible is a segment from Luke 12:48: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded.” I would say the converse is also true. To everyone from whom much has been demanded, much ought to be given. Our seniors define the school and work to keep it running, whether in dorms, as admissions prefects, as peer counselors, or in their numerous other duties.
They deserve compensation of one kind or another, a reward for the responsibility we heap on them. Senior sections, 10-12, and 6-5-4 are tokens of gratitude we can all afford to the student leaders who work so hard for our well-being.