A Matter of Interaction
By: Dylan Yen ‘19
For as long as anyone can remember, Woodberry has had grade-specific dorms. Besides the Prefects and a few Juniors on Freshman and Sophomore dorms, each grade has been consigned to a dorm. Seniors to Griffin and Dowd House, Juniors to Dowd-Finch and Terry, Sophomores to Walker, and Freshmen to Taylor and Turner. When it comes to the question of mixed dorms, the general consensus is a resounding no. However, some on this campus think that we should have them, and their reasoning is..quite peculiar.
Some think we should have mixed dorms because we should “create brotherhood among all the classes”, and to do that, we should do away with “ageism” and disrupt the current social hierarchy. They say that a lack of interaction between the grades creates “apathy and misunderstanding”. They argue that, because we have this stigma between the grades, that we somehow never talk to each other. However, from personal experience, this is most certainly not the case. Since the beginning of the school year, New Boys have been coming up to many old boys and asking a wide variety of questions, ranging from geometry questions to what they should eat at the Fir Tree. When it comes down to genuine questions, old boys will be more than happy to answer them for you with the best advice they can give. We will get to know you, challenge you, and love you like a brother. Sure, there might be some initial stigma between talking to a boy that is older than you, but to say that there is a lack of interaction between the grades is like saying pep rallies aren’t entertaining.
However, that’s not to say that mixed dorms are the end of the world. Mixed dorms can and do create a sense of security and foster better relationships between classes. But, what mixed dorms do take away are the amount of interactions within the grade, which lessens the sense of camaraderie in the grade as a whole. A same form dorm system has fostered lifelong relationships and amici usque ad aras: friends until the end.
As a New Boy, you will bond with the people on your hall. Most of you, especially your Freshman year, will suffer through the same classes together. You will help each other out when the cheerleaders are on dorm, build torches together, and form lifelong relationships. You are all equally new to the whole process. Many of your fondest memories as a class will be created on your dorm, and will stay with you for the rest of your life.
Mixed Dorms take away from the intra-grade camaraderie by reducing interactions between the same grade. All of us had a day to memorize useless and mundane facts about the Cheerleaders in order to get our ties cut; We all had to suffer through the first weeks of school with without knowing where any classrooms were. We’ve wasted endless hours working off demerits and spent countless hours sitting around chatting, eating, and enjoying each other’s company. A shared rite of passage is what bound all classes together, and should be what binds all future generations. Let’s make sure we keep it.
True Big Brothers
By: Nam Bui ‘19
The Woodberry Cup was short-lived. Despite the best efforts of its organizers the monthly, community-wide activity failed to create sustainable bonds between the lower and underclassmen. The problem may lie in cultural ageism, which creates aloofness, a social ailment that only worsens over time, among the different forms. It is considered a stigma to sit at other forms’ tables in dining hall. Other “symptoms” include the abuse of senior’s privilege to issue demerits, or the overt harassment of new boys at pep rallies.
Although we have a culture of “earning the right to the old boys’ privileges,” we also want to create an affectionate campus. Being “known, challenged, and loved” has always been one of our core values. However, a student survey found that, on average, Woodberry boys only know 20 friends outside their own class. We can do better. One solution can be mixing the classes together in dormitories. This will create better understanding and relationships among all classes, support the underclassmen’ assimilation, and benefit the upperclassmen’ leadership while maintain deep friendship within one’s class.
First, we must live together to fully understand each other. Almost any person with a roommate can tell you that. A lack of interactions, whether between a race, a country, or a group of students results in apathy and misunderstanding. Arrogance and disputes may as well follow; since it’s hard to feel empathy when you hardly even know the other guy. An integrated dorm, however, will provide everyone the chance to interact more frequently, get out of his comfort zone and build long-lasting friendships with people of different ages. Because almost everyone here has a busy life, proximity makes a difference. The advantage of mixed dorms lays in a more dynamic alumni network. Mr. Bondurant, Assistant Director of the Amici Fund and Alumni Relations, agreed on the importance of a dynamic alumni network. He has seen many Woodberry graduates from “different years, different decades even, benefit from the interconnectedness of our alumni network.” A friend once told Mr. Bondurant, “if a Woodberry guy calls, you pick up the phone.” That can’t be more true as we strive to make the brotherhood here extend beyond four years of high school and well into the chaotic, busy world. But to really achieve more of those enduring, unique relationships, Woodberry boys of different ages need more frequent interactions with one another. The best way to accomplish that is with mixed dorms.
Second, mixed dorms can provide freshmen huge benefits. The reason is simple: hands-on learning from old boys. Transitioning from middle school to high school is hard. Going from a day school in city to an all-boy boarding school in the middle of nowhere can be even harder. Woodberry provides boys with support from advisors, PLC leaders, and prefects. But sometimes that, however abundant, may not be enough or effective. There are issues that can’t be discussed openly with adults; PLC meetings are distracting. Although cross-form living definitely provides the same, if not more, benefits as those of PLC, it provides a more constant learning experience than the resolution of periodic issues -which is what you get with PLC. Science has proven that we all learn by imitating others and become better people by putting good actions into habits. Upperclassmen have more experience and discipline in organizing their work, keeping a healthy diet, staying on top of their hygiene, etc. Just by living with these ‘adults,’ new boys can learn to follow good habits. At the same time, upperclassmen have daily chances to practice leadership skills and be good examples of Woodberry boys. Mixed dorms, in short, are mutually beneficial to both old and new boys.
Some might argue that having mixed dorms will fracture the brotherhood that is so important to Woodberry. Others say that the current dormitory system is designed in such way that the new boys must work their way up the hierarchy to inherit the air-conditioners and bigger rooms. However, such views are unreasonably pessimistic. Different classes’ identities would still exist thanks to the fact that most people in the same form take many classes together and likely play at the same level of sports. Besides, Woodberry is building new dormitories and renovating old ones, starting with Hanes Hall (old library) and the Walker building. In the near future, we can expect that all dorms will have air-conditioners and bigger rooms. Thus, the difference between old boys and new boys’ living conditions will be negligible. Where you live won’t matter as much as how you live.
In summary, the benefits of mixed dorms outweigh their drawbacks. Having different forms living together not only fosters more dynamic friendships and a more friendly campus, but also provides everyone a chance to do better. New boys can learn more directly from the old ones, while upperclassmen can demonstrate discipline and leadership.
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.