A Stu Divided
by Sarah Ford on Friday, September 19th, 2014
The Schwarz Student Center, nicknamed “The Stu” by students, is chaos during recess. Middle-schoolers avoid herds of tired upperclassmen as they make their way down the stairs to the Bookstore and Snack Bar. Freshmen hide below while juniors and seniors lean menacingly against the railing.
For years, the Student Center has been divided into quadrants, prioritized by seniority of class. The top floor offers upperclassmen couches and tables along with an expansive view of both the Quad outside and the pit of scurrying underclassmen below. Sophomores retire between classes to an architectural box on the lower level lined with couches. Freshmen are stuck in an overpopulated section of the Stu, designed as a route of travel, not as a space of leisure. Nevertheless, as the year goes on, students subconsciously submit to their predetermined locations and become attached to their grade’s location.
The large flight of stairs that connects these areas maintains a unique duality: the ascension to privileged seniority and the descent towards those below it. Invisible to the naked eye, students’ predetermined prejudices reveal themselves when underclassmen overstep their boundaries and venture upstairs. Ironically, the most senior individuals prove the most intrusive yet also the least tolerant of intrusion. Thus, when an unsuspecting freshman clogs the balcony with his book bag, or infiltrates a few feet too far into the elevated platform, he may receive obviously hostile glares, harmless though they may be.
The strict segregation of the student center creates an imbalance among students: upperclassmen quite literally look down on those younger than themselves, and the act of moving upstairs implies an increase in status. Of course, inter-grade relationships form regardless of location in the student center, but the unspoken boundaries engender anxiety among newcomers whose limits are yet to be clearly defined. Furthermore, restrictions enforced by senior students only apply to those beneath them, while upperclassmen lounge where they please.
These same upperclassmen cannot be held accountable for the strict distinctions between grades. In fact, there is no apparent scapegoat for these customs. These traditions originated in fractures of classes long-since graduated. Each rising class, subjugated by the last, reserves the right to pronounce boundaries upon the next newcomers. As long as the hazing that may accompany this entitlement remains unlabeled, the system, in and of itself, is fairly just: privilege becomes something that students earn, not something they can take unfairly from someone else.
The Student Center’s setup is so ingrained in the Milton community that students are hardly looking for change. Sophomores still eagerly anticipate the move to the top of the Stu, while freshmen cannot wait to escape the pit. Juniors and seniors, who paid their dues as underclassmen, take advantage of the more comfortable arrangements to relax after schooldays that are, undoubtedly, harder and more demanding than those of underclassmen.
Bringing both positivity and negativity alike, the system doesn’t necessarily need to be disintegrated. If upperclassmen remember that hazing is unacceptable and that the top floor is an earned comfort, not something with which to abuse underclassmen; they should take full advantage of the top floor. Likewise, underclassmen must keep in mind that their turn to roam the upper levels of the Stu will come.
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