Henry Singleton ’19
Rumors have an uncanny ability to move at seemingly impossible speed. A speed which Woodberry multiplies by ten. Whenever anything of note takes place, word travels from one person to his whole class, to his next class, to the lunch table, to his teammates at practice until the whole campus knows. In this convoluted game of telephone, one piece of information always comes out the most twisted and garbled: news of dismissals.
Typically, as soon as a boy is first brought in to have the administration discuss dismissal, at least one other person in the student body knows about it. With that first whiff of a dismissal, the race is off to spread the word as soon as possible to as many people as possible. Prefects are not above the fray, spreading rumors as fast as the average student (except in honor trials). The boy, or boys as the case may be, will be the only topic of conversation from the time the story breaks until the entire school gathers to soberly listen to Dr. Hulsey, and that is where the problem lies.
Before we students have even set foot in the auditorium, everyone has heard different stories regarding both the subject and the cause of the dismissals. Rumors are abound as to who is really going to be marched out the gate, what happened, and who, if anyone, is to blame. No answers are given to the students throughout the day, even though all they can really focus on is the story they heard last period about someone possibly being dismissed. Too intimidating is the administration to ask, and too ignorant are the other leaders boys look to, causing rumors to fly. When really not a soul in the student body truly knows what’s happening, students are criminalized and blame is apportioned in the court of public opinion, while the fate of the relevant boy is decided behind closed doors.
Finally, after a day or more of waiting and being steeped in possible versions of the dismissal story, all the boys gather in Bowman Gray to hear Dr. Hulsey speak the truth about what really happened. While we do receive the who and what of the situation in the auditorium we receive little else in the way of details. All the students then trudge out of the auditorium, feeling little more enlightened on the way out than on the way in. Thus it is back to the rumor mill to find out, often incorrectly, what truly happened to the boy who left the school.
In a conversation with Dr. Hulsey, he agreed that the rumors that fly around Woodberry can be problematic, and he similarly acknowledged that news of a dismissal further fuels these rumors. When I questioned whether or not he felt he was always as transparent as he could be, Dr. Hulsey Replied “Ultimately my responsibility is to be as transparent as I can be, but there are some limitations,” while also mentioning that he felt a lack of transparency himself as a student at Woodberry. While he supplied many different reasons for not always providing the whole story to us students, I will only supply a few here. Foremost in Dr. Hulseys response was his saying he only deals in facts, meaning he will not report his own or other speculations to the the student body. This, according to Dr. Hulsey himself, is out of both a desire to not further tarnish the reputation of the student, as well as to protect the school form liability in misrepresenting the situation. Also, Dr. Hulsey spoke to the attention span of the average high school student in saying that he tries to be concise enough during the all-school assembly as to not lose the attention of those in attendance. Our headmaster admits that transparency is an issue in the case of dismissals, so now let us turn to Dr. Hulsey’s thoughts and actions on remedying the situation.
Rumors are nearly impossible to bring a stop to, as that is their nature, and both Dr. Hulsey and myself found common ground on this point. It seems a way to resolve the problem of transparency, at least partially, would be to give more information to the students. However, Dr. Hulsey feels he is as clear as he can be with the students while still keeping his address as appropriate as it can be in regard to the dismissed student’s privacy. He even goes as far as to share his remarks with Mr. Coleman (and prefects if relevant), before presenting the case to the school to have a second set of eyes and a second opinion. Dr. Hulsey also brought to my attention that schools similar to Woodberry have no such meeting when a student is dismissed, and he feels we are fortunate to have a more transparent system here. In short, Dr. Hulsey recognizes that there is a problem with rumors, and to a lesser extent with transparency at Woodberry, but as we both agreed, it is a complex problem that is incredibly difficult to solve.
There is a distinct lack of transparency from the administration regarding dismissals, as the full story seldom comes out. Even when the meeting to find out what happened takes place, it usually produces more questions than answers. While our headmaster has provided insight into the decision making behind what to tell us students, the problem of transparency still remains and until a solution can be found, we must be content and, as Dr. Hulsey said, “trust the school.”
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.