[Editorial] Bridging the Day/Boarder Divide
by The Milton Measure on Friday, October 5th, 2012
Last Friday’s Beatnik drew dozens of spectators, and audience and performers alike considered the evening a success. The event’s organizers recognized the turnout as the largest in recent memory.
Not acknowledged was this: in less recent memory, events like Beatnik once attracted hundreds of students, straining the capacity of the spaces where they were held.
When Beatnik was first put on in the late 90s, it was less like a string of formal performances with a seated audience, and more like a true concert. Packed with a crowd dancing, singing along, and otherwise having a boisterous good time, it was the weekend event. Senior day students, especially, came out in force.
While last Friday’s Beatnik certainly attracted a crowd, one could not help but notice a lack of those same day student seniors— most were musicians or organizers.
At other weekend events, this void is even more obvious: almost universally, the vast majority of students in attendance are boarders. While it might seem self-evident that day students wouldn’t want to make the trek back to campus on the weekend, it wasn’t always this way.
Over the past few decades, the administration has taken steps to provide more on-campus events and entertainment. These efforts met with limited success in combatting the “transportation challenge”: the stark contrast in freedom between older day students with drivers’ licenses and younger, campus-bound boarders. In recent years, entertainment that was in theory targeted at the whole school has seemed to cater almost exclusively to underclassmen boarders marooned on campus, and far less to upperclassmen, both day and boarding.
This decline in upperclassmen attendance is clearly a complex issue with numerous causes, both seen and unseen. Among them is a social “chilling effect”: a string of high-profile DCs and expulsions in the mid-2000s scared upperclassmen day students away from attending on-campus activities under the watchful eyes of administrators. As a result, quite a bit of social activity moved to off-campus, supervision-free sites like day student houses.
An additional, less tangible factor contributing to this off-campus shift is the mind-set of upperclassmen in general, particularly seniors. By the time student reach junior or senior year, once-novel events have lost their draw. This phenomenon is understandable, particularly as upperclassmen are preparing to leave Milton, but it has further depressed turnout to on-campus activities like airbrush tattoos or fire juggling which are simply no longer appealing for older students.
The administration has a compelling interest in ensuring the safety of students; on-campus events can never involve certain activities which give off-campus sites a certain attraction. But if the administration seeks a realistic way to limit the number of undesirable parties, it would be better served trying to entice upperclassmen day students back to campus on weekends, rather than further taming on-campus events. Clarifying certain rules and hosting more varied events are both steps that could give day students more confidence that social happenings on campus are a worthwhile way to spend a weekend. While more dances and concerts may not cause a complete shift in the current day/boarder, upperclassmen/underclassmen dynamic, the school should work to experiment and create new traditions — such as the recent Body Glow dance — which draw a diverse crowd.
Milton can restore a more robust social life to its campus, but a partnership between upperclassmen leaders and faculty is necessary to transform campus from a “weekend wasteland” into an appealing social destination. Restoring older traditions like Beatnik to their former status and creating new events in the form of dances and concerts will help ensure that Milton remains a united community.
Short URL: http://miltonmeasure.org/?p=3941