Editor’s note 5/3/16: A previously published version of this article contained insufficient information from the Upper School team regarding its rationale for the decision. We apologize for any bias this may have imparted.
Editor’s note 5/4/16: A previously published version of this article falsely implied that Meredith Hanamirian had commented on Andrew Karolodis’s plan for the final Meeting for Worship. We apologize for this error.
Editor’s note 5/4/16: This article previously appeared under a different headline. The headline and the content of the article now reflect recent developments.
Full disclosure: Both co-authors are themselves members of the Class of 2016 and recused themselves from the survey described in the article.
The decision to not individually announce the seniors by name and their college destination at the final award ceremony is now being reconsidered.
Administration told seniors they would not be announced individually by name and college at the conclusion of the end-of-year awards ceremony, a decision that sparked widespread discontent within the Class of 2016 and a subsequent decision by the administration to revisit the topic at an upcoming faculty meeting.
The original decision represents a departure from a long-standing MFS tradition. In past years, at the conclusion of the awards assembly, seniors stood up individually while a member of the school administration announced their name and the college that they would be attending the next year.
The change was originally proposed by the Upper School team — Upper School Director Justin Brandon, Dean of Students Mike Brunswick, Upper School Counselor Katie LuBrant, and School Psychologist Susan Batastini. It was then brought to a faculty meeting, where the consensus was that nixing the announcements was in the best interest of the students.
“It’s been a topic of discomfort for years,” said LuBrant. “We followed the Quaker process — came up with the idea in the Upper School team, then brought it to the faculty, and they made the decision.”
In his meeting with seniors to announce the original decision, Brandon mentioned “dirty looks” and other negative reactions that some seniors have received when their colleges are announced. “It adds some negativity to what should be a very positive last experience for the seniors.”
Director of College Counseling Meredith Hanamirian stated that the Class of 2015 was surveyed as to whether or not they were in favor of the individual announcements.
“The majority liked having the colleges announced, but there were some who didn’t like it,” said Hanamirian.
Though the change was intended to remain in place for future years, those most acutely affected by it are the current seniors. The decision was formally announced to them immediately following Meeting for Worship this past Wednesday and quickly became a hot topic of conversation within the grade.
In an informal survey of the entire senior class, 45 of 75 respondents said that they were opposed to the decision, while just 6 reported being in favor of it. The remaining 24 who responded were indifferent or unsure.
“Everyone should be proud of where they’re going [to college],” said Amanda Karlsson, who was vehemently against the decision. “We deserve to be recognized for our achievements.”
Rylee Fennell was also a vocal opponent of the move. “The final assembly is a time to recognize the achievements of the entire senior class, not just the few that get awards.”
“It is an honors/awards assembly, and we get that presenting the whole class individually would include them in that,” said Brandon. “Our main point in looking at … this topic was to support any of the students who may not feel comfortable during that time.”
Brandon disagreed with some students’ comments that the school is “coddling” its students in shielding 17- and 18-year-olds from “a few dirty looks.”
“It’s not necessarily coddling; it’s just we wanted to make sure [the seniors’] last big event that’s all-school is a positive one,” Brandon explained.
Those students who supported the decision all commented that they understood both sides of the situation.
“I’m lucky to have gotten into my first choice school,” said Jacob Schoifet, who was in favor of the decision. “But I know that some people applied to colleges that other people got into, and getting rejected from those colleges and then hearing that again in the assembly could possibly be hurtful to some people.”
The administration originally proposed an alternative to the individual announcements: a variant on the “Great Kids, Going Places” campaign open to all seniors. A display featuring pictures, favorite memories, and colleges of attendances of all seniors who choose to participate would be on display in Stokes Hall during senior week, the school week leading up to graduation.
“I am really excited about it,” said Hanamirian of the campaign. “I think we really do want to celebrate every student in the senior class and their accomplishments here and where they are going.”
Nonetheless, many people remained unconvinced. “By announcing each one of our names and college, it gives everyone that opportunity to feel not only the support of the community, but also an incredible pride in ourselves that can’t be replicated through posters on a board,” said Fennell.
After the announcement, several students met individually with Brandon to voice their opposition to the decision, prompting an email Wednesday morning to the senior class.
“Your response has warranted further dialogue,” Brandon wrote in the email. “The faculty will revisit the topic at our next Upper School Faculty meeting later this month.”
We reached out to Brandon about his email regarding the “further dialogue.”
“When we revisit it … everything is on the table. … I’m sure we will now think about the decision and see if it is the right decision, or [maybe we will decide to] go back to what we’ve done in the past and announce the names.”
Short of a reversal of the decision, senior Andrew Karolidis has an idea regarding how to implement the announcements anyway. “At the last Meeting for Worship, I’m just going to stand up and say, ‘Andrew Karolidis, University of Delaware,’ and sit back down. And then everyone else can follow.”