A Complex Geopolitical Quagmire

Over the past four years, it has been an ‘unspoken law’ that each grade inhabits their own, specific spaces on campus. While freshmen riot on the knoll or in the commons, sophomores generally lock themselves in their dorm rooms. Meanwhile, juniors and seniors spend their entire year living within the heart of the Thacher campus: the library.

By this law, the library is an exclusive space reserved for juniors and seniors. In a way, its stacks, magazines, and leather chairs have come to symbolize the heavy workloads that encumber upperclassmen and as a result, ‘clear’ boundaries encompass the building’s entirety— any bold freshmen who attempt to overstep these boundaries will be subject to scowls and the occasional sneer.

As time passes, however, laws shift or are broken altogether.

Throughout the first trimester, as upperclassmen have studied within the main library spaces, underclassmen have slowly infiltrated peripheral areas— the old maker’s space to the west or the personal study spaces to the north.

In response, juniors and seniors have called for war, arming themselves with their most indignant glares and scornful body language to form a stalwart against the onslaught of underclassmen.

Yet, as upperclassmen spot freshmen studying in their beloved spaces, their lines break under anxiety and discomfort, and they are left to begrudgingly study alongside their underclassmen counterparts while they ask the question, “How did this happen?”

In a series of brief surveys, the Notes sought to provide an explanation and investigate the causes and responses to the seismic territorial shifts on campus.

Interestingly, unprecedented changes have occurred since the beginning of the year that have influenced today’s current geopolitical climate. According to several freshmen, the dorm heads in Lower School and Casa allow for open-dorm events each nine-thirty to ten. In this way, the knoll —normally the late night haven for freshmen— is now a neglected area.  

While open-dorm events do provide socializing spaces for freshmen, they have their limits and are only scheduled for narrow time-slots. Under normal circumstances, freshmen could compensate by drifting to the commons; however, this year sophomores unexpectedly enforced a spatial monopoly of the commons, marking their own boundaries in clear exclusion of freshmen.

To this end, freshmen are unsure where to socialize during hours outside of nine-thirty to ten. “We don’t have a home,” an anonymous freshman explained. “We need a place to hang out and study like the older grades. The library could be that place.”

Without the knoll or the commons, freshmen slowly began moving into the library in search of a new space to spend time— specifically in the spaces supposedly appropriated to juniors. However, they were met with immediate friction from juniors accustomed to space only for upperclassmen.

As the surveys revealed, 82.1 percent of juniors believed freshmen should not be allowed to study in the library. Many expressed feelings of irritation at the presence of freshmen. One junior respondent stated, “It is uncomfortable for underclassmen to take our space and chairs.”

One junior cited the difference in workloads between underclassmen and upperclassmen, noting, “the stakes are much higher for juniors and seniors and the library is a space where we can be productive without noise.” Of the 39 junior responses, ten described the freshmen as a distracting presence that causes frequent disturbances— laughing, talking, or other antics.

Meanwhile, other juniors harbored feelings of indignation that bordered on animosity, using words like “invading” or “infringing” to describe freshmen’s actions. One went as far as to demand “their total removal and extermination!”

As passions smolder, the senior class has taken the higher road, generally offering mediation in the conflict. One asserted, “Everyone who attends Thacher is entitled to use of its facilities regardless of age.” Another affirmed that “all underclassmen have the right to study in the library.”

However, a majority of seniors —54.2 percent— still believe freshmen should not be allowed in the library. Furthermore, several upperclassmen raised the question of a hierarchy inherent to Thacher and high school life.

“It makes me mad,” one student responded, “that they work in the library as freshmen because we had to wait for our spot at the library, and it is only fair to say that they can handle waiting two years also.”

According to students responses, upperclassmen and underclassmen largely rely on a hierarchical system centered on age to justify territorial disputes. This, unfortunately, has led to numerous library encounters that reveal shortcomings in Thacher’s four pillars, specifically ‘kindness’ and ‘fairness’.

Notably, the juniors’ and seniors’ adamant stances could reflect insecurity in their proximity to freshmen. One junior ominously stated, “I get nervous around [freshmen]. Remind me of my former self.” Another expressed discomfort at the thought of freshmen “existing in the library at the same times I exist in the library. First the library, next the Hill and Upper School.”

Overwhelmingly, 96.4% of freshmen believe that should be able to enjoy equal access to the library’s facilities. To the 28 freshmen respondents, the library is a “public space” that should not be withheld from a quarter of the student body. Some even recounted stories where juniors have said “rude things under their breath all because I’m a frosh.”

Aggressive behavior on the side of upperclassmen seemingly furthers separation between grades— a dilemma that has bred paternalistic attitudes amongst the supposed models of the school.

This issue has not gone unnoticed, however, as several seniors have approached the Notes hoping to open a more extensive dialogue on the issue of cross-grade divides. When asked to offer their opinion, one stated, “The fact that we even have to discuss this is ridiculous. Seniors and juniors, take a look in the mirror and grow up.”