This past Sunday, V Former Maya Peterson ’14 announced her decision to step down from the position as Student Body President through an all-school email.The email read: “Dear Lawrenceville Community, As your Student Body President, it is my job to do what is best for the community, but as a student it is my job to do what is best for myself. With that said, I have decided to step down as President of The Lawrenceville School.”
The announcement came twenty-one days after Peterson posted a controversial picture on Instagram, depicting a stereotypical “Lawrenceville boi,” wearing L.L. Bean boots and a Yale University quarter-zip sweater, and holding a hockey stick. Moreover, the post included hashtags, such as “#cleve,” “#romney2016,” “#confederate,” and “#peakedinhighschool,” that upset many members of the school community. Certain faculty members and students felt that “it was not fitting of a student leader to make comments mocking members of the community,” Dean of Students Nancy Thomas H’01 P’04’07 explained.
After a group of community members brought the post to Thomas’s attention, Thomas met with Peterson and decided it was best for Lawrenceville if Peterson stepped down as President.
Although the Student Council did not play a part in Peterson’s decision to step down, according to Thomas, they were informed of the decision the following night and decided not to appoint a head of the Council for the remaining two months of the school year. Instead, council members will take turns running school meeting, which they had planned to do even before Peterson’s announcement, in hopes of giving Lawrentians a chance to see more familiar faces as leaders of the community.
Thomas noted that “this Council is very collaborative [and] effective, and committed to serving the student body well. They feel very comfortable with sharing leadership roles to finish the year well.” If necessary, however, the three elected Vice Presidents- Academic Vice President Natalie Tung ’14, Honor Vice President Peter Beer ’14, and Social Vice President Aurelio Ayala ’14- will take on ceremonial roles.
Student Council must be prepared to take on additional responsibilities under unfortunate circumstances. The handbook states that “a student may be asked to resign from a leadership position if his or her infraction compromised his/her role as that leader.” In fact, as recently as 1990, both President and Vice President of Lawrenceville’s Student Council stepped down from their positions for unspecified “disciplinary reasons.”
Lawrentians have always been held to a high standard, but student leaders have an even higher bar to reach. Katherine O’Malley, Peterson’s Housemaster for two years, added that “like it or not, people- all people- in positions of leadership, are going to be held to a higher level of scrutiny, and while it sometimes seems unfair or even tragic at times, it’s a fact.”
Nevertheless, Thomas explained that “nobody is perfect. Everyone has done things that we’re not proud of. We have to be careful about judging each other. Our job is to help each other grow into empathetic members of a community.”
The recent change in Student Council will not have any lasting consequences on the way the Student Body President is elected, and the system is expected to remain just as it is. This past Wednesday night, Lewis Chapman ’15, Cliff Gilman ’15, Danny Goldman ’15, Chudi Ilogu ’15, Amit Mallik ’15, Patrick McLaughlin ’15, Matt Porcelli ’15, Eliot Schulte ’15, Nephy Smith ’15, Jared Madfes ’15, and Rob Lincoln ’15 submitted platforms to run for Student Council President. Next week, all IV Formers will vote for their two or three candidates of choice, who will then be interviewed by members of The Lawrence Editorial Board at school meeting. Every student will then vote once, and the candidate with the majority of votes will become Lawrenceville’s Student Body President for the 2014-2015 school year.
Both Peterson and Student Council declined to comment on the recent announcement.