Photo credit: Erik Hanson
On Friday afternoon during lunch and into 5th period, throngs of students gathered on the Green to protest the administration’s proposal to end the tradition of seniors choosing a teacher to hand them their diploma at graduation. Organized by leadership, over 200 students gathered to talk about the meaning of the tradition and expressed their dissatisfaction with the administration’s consideration of the change.
The protest was widely publicized on social media earlier this week. Junior Annika Abdella, a leadership student, stated “We are a student-run organization that represents student voices and this [protest] was an extension of that.”
Junior Ally Mediratta, who organized an online petition, said, “This tradition is meaningful for every single senior who gets to have their favorite teacher or mentor give them their diploma.”
Prior to the protest, administrators organized a meeting in the library to receive input on how best to handle students’ concerns. However, many of those present expressed frustration that their voices weren’t being heard. Junior Isabel Brahana said, “This is one of the largest milestones for people, and it’s a shame that they would try and remove it.”
At the meeting, Assistant Vice Principal (AVP) Stephen Emmi made it clear that the administration has “no fixed agenda” and that they “want student opinions.” Much of the discussion surrounding the issue regarded the time it took to organize the seating chart for graduation in order to ensure that there was an even distribution. Administration also emphasized the extra time it took during graduation to call out each teacher’s name.
Following the meeting, students gathered on the green, ignored the hall sweep, and sat out in protest. After an introduction by senior Nate Cohen, numerous students spoke about the importance of tradition and their reason for joining the protest. Senior Jalea Ragins said, “I was suspended by Ms. Kennel freshman year. I do not want Ms. Kennel to give me my diploma.”
Senior Katherine Tearse said, “I took A.S. Chemistry as a sophomore and A.P. Chemistry as a junior last year, I have Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Mr. Sandora was with me every single day at lunch and he would walk me through each problem until I understood each concept.” Many others agreed, expressing frustration that they couldn’t ask their favorite teacher to hand them their diplomas.
Sisters Ella & Mia Nelson talked about how they would “really love to have our dad, [English teacher] Mr. Nelson, give us our diploma.”
However, others talked about the need for greater student voices in administration decisions. Senior Alexandra Ornes said, “In general we feel like student voices are ignored by adults on campus.”
Department head and Spanish teacher Salvadora Calonje, a teacher who receives a great number of student requests for diplomas, encouraged her students in her 5th period to go protest. She told them, “What are you doing here? Go protest—it’s your graduation! Not only will seniors be affected, but all of the students.”