On August 18th, the frantic first week of school concluded with the annual Welcome Back Day, a day for the three SAS houses – Aquila, Ethon, and Andor – to win house points. High Schoolers were out on the fields capturing flags and tugging war, in the library playing Mafia and Silent Ball, and in the gym competing in dodgeball. Following tradition, each house also had time to create and vote on house cheers. Rather than going through the process annually, this year’s cheers were meant to last for the near future.
It was 9:30 a.m. when the voting process commenced. In the Elementary Theater, Andor house elected their winning cheer, created by a senior quartet. House President Sophie Anderson explained, “We did the whole process for cheering, and it took forty minutes. In the end, I was super happy. Spirit was at its highest! We had a bomb cheer.”
Andor House administrator, Mrs. Zuber-Meehan, also noted, “It did feel like we were finally a house in that room, there was a true sense of community.”
However, only moments after the house was released from the Theater, Mrs. Zuber-Meehan had several faculty members approach her and say, “‘We’re not so sure we are comfortable with the word ‘party’ given that it has not always had the best connotation at SAS.’” What connotations was she talking about?
House Andor’s cheer was devised by senior Austin Napierski and the rest of his advisory quartet. The cheer was inspired by his old high school’s cheer in the United States. Advisor Mr. Crawford recalled, “I found no words that bothered me in any way whatsoever. Kindergarteners have parties. One of the suggestions that was a part of the voting was, ‘We’re going to win the war’. And to me, the word war would be something to cut out rather than party.”
Which kind of party were the Andorian students thinking of? Austin Napierski explained, “I was not thinking literally about a party, I was thinking about celebrating. Together we are celebrating, just as if you’re celebrating a win.”
As word amongst the faculty began to spread, a few advisors expressed their concern verbally or through notes to Mrs. Zuber-Meehan. Some of these concerns relayed from students. Andor advisor Mr. Curnett spoke in hindsight, “I didn’t really concern myself too much with the content of what was happening, I was more interested in student spirit.”
House team sponsor and Ethon advisor, Mr. Filice, found out about the concerns through word-of-mouth and agreed an alternative was needed. “With the craziness of the schedule that day, I don’t think there was really an opportunity to do it any differently,” he said. “On a personal level, I get what it was about. I mean, I don’t think it was necessarily about going out partying and drinking.”
Meanwhile, the student body remained completely unaware and uninvolved with the discussion at hand. At lunchtime, 11:15am, Sophie Anderson and Austin Napierski were told that the ultimate decision had been made by Mrs. Zuber-Meehan. “I was a little shocked, to be honest, and I was kind of confused, kind of upset. But the person who pulled me aside just said, ‘Some teachers have approached me and said it’s not appropriate,’” Sophie remarked.
Backed up by a handful of teachers, including Mr. Filice, the Andor house cheer was successfully changed, some might say “censored.”
The plot thickens. Andor House President, who had no say in the decision, went to the HS office to protest the change. Mrs. Zuber-Meehan rejected their request to change the lyrics back, however, she “appreciated their willingness to do that for students” as House leaders.
Sophie Anderson said, “We’ve got to do what the big dogs tell us to do. But at the same time, I totally respect them and I know it’s their job.”
In the midst of Welcome Back Day and within the duration of a few hours, a decision was made. And at the end of the day assembly, where the cheers were to be premiered, Andor house was about to become aware of it. Before the revealing their cheer, Mrs. Zuber-Meehan took the microphone and publicized the new lyrics. Austin Napierski said, “It was evident at the assembly that it wasn’t as popular among the student body.”
At this moment, Tansy Hew, member of the House Team, turned around and asked the Andorians around her, “You’re going to say ‘party’ right?” Later she explained, “I just wanted to say ‘party’ to show them it’s dumb that we’re saying ‘house.’”
Mr. Filice, aware of the situation, said, “I was watching for what the reaction would be. I may have noticed a little something but if you didn’t know, I’m not sure you would have picked it up… It would be interesting to ask someone who had no idea what was happening.”
And so I did. An anonymous student from Ethon house explained “[the cheer] seemed a little bit off. As if there was a little bit of discomfort or lack of awareness or connection between everyone about what was going on.”
One of the “spirit symbols” of Andor house, known for his inspirational speeches and hammer throwing, is Sophomore Ishan Singh. He noted, “The fact that it was censored kind of destroys that spirit because people want to do what they want.”
“I feel like the original one would have been more uniting,” Austin agreed, “because we made it up and it’s not admin stepping in and shutting it down.”
Mr. Crawford mentioned his disappointment. “This was something the students were encouraged to set up on their own and they kind of knew what the rules were…I think that there’s a slight possibility that people went: ‘We don’t have control over things.’”
Many were bothered. For a moment. Then, inevitably, they moved on.
Some two weeks later, on August 30th, a mass email was sent to all of Andor House, later identified as a hacked message. Ishan Singh sent back the original lyrics of the Andor cheer, including the word ‘party’. He explained, “I did it purposely. It’s basically me sending out a statement like, ‘Hey, we’re our own house’…I don’t want to be seen as a political figure, I want to be seen as just another Andorian just trying to raise spirit.”
With the events moving so quickly, only a few knew what went on behind the changed Andor cheer. Was it a small but passionate issue? No big deal? Or does it say something more? And most importantly, what happens now?
“I would encourage anybody who ever has a question, a worry, or a concern to come in and have a chat,” said Mrs. Zuber-Meehan. Mr. Filice agreed, “I think it might be a good thing to kind of have more discussion around it as a community…I hope that we can all move past this situation.”
On the other hand, because so many were left in the dark, not only would it be important to talk about the situation, but, like Mr. Crawford remarked, “to have some more information and more openness about the ‘why.’”
Ishan Singh even suggested, “I think the next Andor assembly, they should just put it together and let everyone vote for it again.”
Exactly, what is the purpose of the house cheers? Some say to give each house an identity that will pass on. Some say to generate and build spirit. But above all, the house cheers unite the student body. This incident affected the Andor students and faculty and created a sense of disconnectedness after something decided on as a community was changed by a handful of people. Majority rules, right? Not always, apparently.
On the other hand, it brings up why the word ‘party’ and its ‘negative connotations’ was such an issue. Does it have something to do with SAS’s partying culture? What would be the consequences of keeping the word in? With underage drinking being a prevalent issue in High Schools all over the world, was it inevitable that the word ‘party’ would concoct such an image?
But at the end of the day, we Andorians learned a valuable lesson. We can celebrate, but we most certainly can’t ‘party’.