A Needed Message
Hutch Bray ‘21
Vaping here at Woodberry has become a problem that needs to be addressed because it affects the whole community. In an effort to curb vaping, the Administration has tightened rules around it. From now on, upon being caught using a vaporizer for a second time during the same year, students will automatically be placed in probation. This new policy shows that the administration and faculty are tightening down with this offense and that it is extremely important for our community.
I may not have been here before this policy was implemented, but it is very clear that this policy is something that was much needed here at Woodberry. Multiple boys I have talked to have said so: Rex Hallow ‘20, only one among many, was stuck this year for vaping said, “I think the policy is good because it creates an environment where boys are forced to stop because of the threat of probation.” The new policy creates a larger incentive for boys to stop vaping as the threat of probation looms larger over their heads than before. Whereas before, being caught vaping twice was not that big of a deal, as Javon Darrien ‘19 said “thirty demerits wasn’t really a big deal for being caught, so boys caught vaping wouldn’t really care,” it has now turned into a serious disciplinary matter that can jeopardize your place at Woodberry. As the policy is implemented, boys are realizing vaping is something that mustn’t happen, thus succeeding in creating the environment which the rule set out to achieve: A vape-free environment.
People will always question whether this is an extreme policy or not, and if it is really necessary or if it even matters. Even if boys are caught a first time, they get a second chance so, why does this policy matter? Boys may not care about this policy at all. In fact, many don’t consider that multiple boys have already been stuck this year. We could dwell on how enforceable this policy is for hours, however, that does not take away from the clear message that the school is sending: Times are changing, and getting out of trouble for vaping will not be as easy as before.
In hindsight, people will always question if the school is going overboard with the new policy. My dad, William Bray ‘85, was allowed to dip and smoke tobacco with the permission of a parent or guardian when he came here. He said, “you never really did smoke or dip that much, and never it never created too much of a problem, but nobody knew how bad this stuff was for you back in 1985.” Clearly, times have changed. As the health effects of tobacco-related products have become clearer, Woodberry has to find a way to not only curb an addictive habit but also to seek to improve the long-term health of its students. That is why the new policy is a good idea; because it is the best and most practical tool the administration has in combating the spread of vaping.
Vaping here will always be frowned upon and should always be avoided. Here at Woodberry, boys make mistakes and mistakes come with a cost, but when a boy vapes it is something that needs to be addressed and as Javon said, “boys didn’t really care when they were caught because it was only thirty demerits.” This is the reason why the faculty and administration are trying to make a point by creating this policy so that boys that considered vaping will remember what happens if they are caught and will do the right thing. Vaping is something that just doesn’t need to be part of the culture of Woodberry because it deteriorates the idea of being a Woodberry Boy.
A Better Way
Ryan Kauffman ‘20
Vaping has become more and more popular in the U.S. with recent statistics pulling in shocking numbers: roughly one in four high school students use electronic vaping products, whereas one in ten students smoke cigarettes (Source: https://news.heart.org/cdc-one-in-four-teens-are-vaping/). High schools around the country are laying down the law on such devices, and this year, Woodberry is no exception. In an attempt to counteract the growing popularity of vapes, the Administration has changed the rules around vaping. Beginning this year, if a student is caught vaping twice in a school year, they are automatically put on probation, which puts their place at the school at risk. However, usually one must accumulate 75 demerits to be placed on probation, but being stuck for vaping twice only amounts to sixty demerits. Woodberry has set down these drastic measures because they are unhappy with the vaping within the student body. The question is, will this new rule be effective?
It is highly doubtful that the new rule will shape up the vapers in the school. I support it, and feel like it is only fair, but it will not deter wrongdoers. For one thing, if they cared enough about their place at Woodberry, they wouldn’t vape in the first place. However, in some cases, the boys become addicted to the nicotine found in these devices, and once they start, they cannot stop. Even if these boys are stuck, their minds rationalize another drag, and the boys assure themselves they won’t be stuck again. I am not sure how many boys like this make up the student body, but I’m betting that there are at least a couple, and this law is unfair to them, to their parents, and to their futures because it does not seek to help them. Merely punishing them more harshly is not enough, the school has to develop a way to help those who have become addicted. Consider this, if a student is not offered re-enrollment because he has been caught vaping, he is likely to go back home. His parents are likely to be angry and will, hopefully, try to help him, however, they don’t have the resources or the know-how to really help their son. Woodberry does. We even have an in-house psychiatrist. In addition to punishing boys for doing something wrong, the administration should seek to create a better support network for the kids who vape.
The boys who have vaped have grown in numbers as well, evident already as several boys were issued demerits in the first days of school. What the school really needs is a new way to enforce and apprehend these boys. The Honor Code was created because the student body was concerned about honor at the school. Nothing prevents another such committee from arising to fix another problem. This is what we should be doing. The administration and faculty should be fostering an environment where students have incentives other than disciplinary ones to adhere to the rules.
I am not saying that the new policy is a bad thing; Merely that it is not enough and that the school could and should be doing more to fix this problem, however, we, as a student body, should do more to address this issue as well. If we truly believe that vaping and other tobacco-related products damage the Woodberry experience, then it falls upon us students to prevent this from happening, aided, of course, by the administration and faculty. There is a better way of dealing with this issue. A way that encompasses not only disciplinary actions but actions that can actually affect the culture here.
The views expressed in this article are not necessarily the views of the author. Writers are often asked to argue for positions they do not espouse.
The views expressed in this article do not, in any way, represent the views of the editorial board, our faculty adviser, Mr. Guldin, nor the opinion of The Oracle as a whole.