Wake Up! It's Thursday

I hate Thursdays, I think as I push past a row of fellow students’ legs, muttering half-hearted apologies before slumping into my seat.

I hate Thursdays, I think as I push past a row of fellow students’ legs, muttering half-hearted apologies before slumping into my seat. It’s still loud in the auditorium; those that are inexplicably awake and functioning sans coffee are having conversations with the people around them, while many others have turned to their phones. I get a solid five minutes of stewing in my morning-induced apathy until the lights change, and Student Council President Trevor White’s ’19 voice fills the room. “Welcome to school meeting,” he says. I briefly consider snaking an earbud down my sleeve and casually leaning on my palm before guiltily dispelling the idea. “Please take your seats.”

Our weekly school meeting can feel like an utter waste of time. Why am I spending my Thursday having trekked all the way to the Kirby Arts Center, exhausting a solid 40 minutes of my day? I could be studying, or using this time at consultation, or even just hanging out with my friends. Certainly this weekly ritual isn’t necessary.

From a practical standpoint, much of the regular school meeting itinerary is quite necessary. Notifications for clubs, events, educational opportunities, and recognitions that the Lawrenceville community ought to hear about need the audience school meeting provides. The primary alternative for administrators and club leaders who want to announce this information is email, which, given our busy schedules, we students often don’t actually sift through. The alternatives Lawrenceville could adopt are morning announcements over a PA system—infeasible in our case due to the multiple buildings on campus and the time cut from A block—or lunch announcements, another infeasible alternative, as different Forms are seated in different buildings and often at different times. A weekly assembly is Lawrenceville’s unique and characteristically “extra” means of making announcements to the entire student body.

This is not only true of standard announcements but also of the chronically controversial school speakers. One might argue, “Why not just make it voluntary? Announce that there’s a speaker discussing X topic, and just have people who want to listen attend.” This, however, would defeat the purpose of an all-school speaker. Lawrenceville invites these people because the School believes that the messages they will bring will further our education and promote the values associated with our mission to “challenge a diverse community of promising young people to lead lives of learning, integrity, and high purpose.” These talks are meant to spark discussion and may serve as a much needed “bubble buster” from our admittedly sheltered school community. This isn’t to say that individual speakers shouldn’t be subject to criticism or that we shouldn’t call the School out on some of the more questionable performers and speakers presented at school meeting. However, a few poor speakers shouldn’t be grounds to eliminate all-school speakers altogether. Because these speeches are meant to be a part of our education, it is only right that our audience is mandatory.

Above all, however, it is important to remember the significance of all-school meetings in an institution that prides itself on community as much as Lawrenceville does. As cliché as it sounds, with the entire student body and faculty usually dispersed over such an enormous campus packed into one auditorium, there’s a sense of community.

Furthermore, from Student Council to the tech crew to the choice of entertainment, school meeting is almost entirely student-run. To disrespect it is to disrespect members of our student body and those we’ve elected as student representatives. And to their credit, these people work to make the event entertaining, whether we’re treated to a performance from The Disciples, a spontaneous inter-House limbo competition, or some brave teachers allowing themselves to be pie’d for charity.

School meeting, as mundane and pointless as it can seem on a drowsy Thursday morning, is a necessary part of Lawrenceville life. The current model is effective in conveying announcements, presenting speakers, and bringing the School together—which is what the weekly assembly is meant to do. As students, the least we can do is remain attentive and respectful to those addressing us. One of the girls from HomeWorks a few weeks ago smartly called a few students out for the not-so-cleverly disguised blue light emanating from their phones—don’t be one of those people. It truly is simple enough to shut off a device and give our community and speakers just 40 minutes of our time.

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