News Briefing 5/12/20
By NM '20 & Will Holland '20
End-of-Year Accoutrements Go Virtual
STA Prize Day, along with Senior Chapel, Alumni Day, the Cum Laude Service, and Graduation (i.e the conferring of diplomas and recognition of satisfaction of graduation requirements) will be virtual, a recent note from Mr. Robinson confirmed. The cherished ceremonies join Signing Day as end-of-year accoutrements that have already migrated to cyberspace. However, Mr. Robinson is committed to offering an in-person Commencement—with full regalia and grandeur—as soon as the virus situation allows. In his recent note, Robinson announced a three-day period of celebration for seniors in early August (August 4–6) that will include “Dinner with the Seniors and the Headmaster,” a “Gathering for Seniors and Their Parents,” and, of course, Commencement. Robert Musslewhite, chair of the STA Governing Board, was announced as commencement speaker. The note also unveiled several new, virtualized rituals to come, including “The Passing of the Mantle,” Faculty Lunches (which began today, to great acclaim), a “Time Capsule,” and lasting memorials to the Class of 2020.
Questions Linger Amidst New Grading System, Exams
After taking input from students, both STA and NCS unveiled parallel grading systems for the Upper Schools that prevent students’ fourth quarter grades from falling below their third quarter averages and give seniors the option of opting into pass-fail grading. However, questions remain: Students have complained of unclear criteria and guidelines surrounding pass-fail and imprecise wording in the official rollout of each policy. One oft-repeated question is whether the Q3 benchmark applies to number or letter grades. Additionally, STA has yet to establish a firm policy on what sort of end-of-year examinations will be permissible, stating only that exams will not be “administered in the traditional manner,” eliciting widespread concern.
The Exchanged Celebrates the Founding of Rome
Three weeks ago, the staff and editors of The Exchanged celebrated the 2,772-year anniversary of Romulus’s foundation of the city of Rome on April 21, 753 BC. “Even today, Rome lives,” Editor-in-Chief NM ‘20 commented. “She lives in the hearts and minds of her disciples; she lives in the institutions and technologies she birthed; and she lives in the collective ethos of our Western society. Roma aeterna est.” For a comprehensive history of the eternal city, check out Musslewhite’s ongoing ten-part series, “A Brief Survey of the History of Rome.”
STA Seniors Excused from Last Week of Class; NCS Seniors Expected to Attend
In a note addressed to seniors, Dr. Labaree unveiled the following policy for STA seniors: “I am… writing to let you know that you will be excused from attending STA classes during the four days after Memorial Day on Monday, May 25. As you know, we added classes on those days after we decided to cancel traditional exams and partly to help compensate for ‘Respite Wednesdays’ in May. As many of you have noted, that week would have featured a special exam schedule, and few seniors would have been asked to take an exam given our allowances made for seniors and May exams.” He noted, however, that STA seniors enrolled in NCS classes are expected to attend those lectures during the final week, as NCS is not excusing their seniors in the same way.
Affinity Groups Unveiled at St. Albans
In a recent Zoom symposium, the Affinity Groups Task Force unveiled its plans to institute affinity groups—groups where membership is restricted to those who identify with a particular group—immediately. Though overall viewed as an important development, students largely criticized three particular aspects of the new program: the rollout, involving a lengthy school-wide meeting and several school-wide emails, which many supporters felt over-represented the change being implemented; the lack of transparency in the lead-up to the rollout; and the vagueness around which types of affinity groups would be allowed—requests for religious, political, and other affinity groups were dodged in a student panel discussion that followed the rollout. Additionally, LGBT students have expressed concern that the relevant affinity group, as currently constituted, seems to require students to be “out” to join.
Interest in Gap Years Spikes Amongst Close Seniors
As starting college on campus looks to be no guarantee, more seniors than usual at both NCS and St. Albans are considering a gap year to partake in service projects, travel to exotic destinations, or exploration of potential careers, The Exchanged has confirmed. Expect the Class of 2025 to include more Close faces than the current crop of juniors.
Performances Get the Green Light
The show must go on! So said the Theatre Department, which still plans to go ahead with its usual fourth quarter productions. In the coming weeks, both the One Act Play Festival and Dance Gala will be hosted in a virtual environment, providing faculty and students across the close with much needed entertainment.
Euro Challenge Team Advances to Competition Semifinals
After winning the regional round, the STA Euro Challenge Team—made up of Theo Baker ‘22, Evan Daneker ‘22, Theo Sotoodehnia ‘22, Henry Brown ‘23, Alexander von Kumberg ‘22, and Rishi Kanna ‘23, and advised by Nolan Musslewhite ‘20 and Mr. Keith Mills—has advanced to the semifinal round of the nationwide, EU-sponsored competition. Usually held in New York City, the round will be held virtually on May 18.
AP Exams Get off the Ground… Barely
The coronavirus was no match for the College Board, which has made numerous changes to its AP exams so that students can take them from home. The tests are open note, shorter, and available on any technological device. They are also optional, allowing students to “drop” an exam without incurring the usual financial penalty. However, there have been several reports of complications with submission in the first days of testing, which is certain to concern students and teachers alike. Furthermore, some colleges have said that they will not be granting credit for certain modified exams, and will instead require all students to take placement tests upon arrival at campus. That the new exams have been already plagued by technical difficulties and dismissed by many colleges has led to them garnering an even more lackluster reaction from students than in years past.
Government Club Goes Virtual as Raucous Email Chain Angers Heads
Government Club has gone virtual with debates featuring a mock presidential election, the political philosophy questions of abortion legislation, and party caucuses. One club email spawned a lengthy “reply all” email chain that featured jokes, memes, and references to Hume’s philosophical ideals, angered the party heads. “O tempora, o mores,” they might have exclaimed.
STA Offers Respite; NCS Holds Firm
St. Albans’ newly-instituted “Respite Wednesdays”—the day off each Wednesday—has proven popular among both students and faculty. NCS is yet to offer similar respite.